People with purpose: for Alannah and Madeline

Posted on 12 Sep 2023

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia

Walter Mikac with Alannah Madeline Mikac

Walter Mikac established the Alannah & Madeline Foundation in the wake of the Port Arthur tragedy which claimed his family’s lives. As the charity celebrates its annual fundraising day, we spoke to Walter about his daughter’s legacy.

What is your role with the Alannah & Madeline Foundation?

I am the founder of the foundation, which was established in memory of my daughters Alannah, aged six and Madeline, aged three who were killed at Port Arthur along with their mother Nanette in 1996.

These days in my role as founding patron I attend our events and lobby politicians to do more to help vulnerable young people recover from traumatic life events.

It’s still staggering how much domestic violence happens in our communities.

What did you hope to achieve by launching the foundation?

Launching the Alannah & Madeline Foundation in 1997 with PM John Howard as patron, my main objective was helping children who were in need of support after either losing parents or being exposed to traumatic events or violence.

It gave me a focus and purpose in those early days.

I knew the distress and devastation caused by events at Port Arthur and the massive ripple effects.

The main thing is protecting our children as much as possible from witnessing domestic violence and then helping them on their journey of rebuilding their self-esteem and their lives.

Walter Mikac with Alannah and Madeline Foundation CEO Surah Davies.
Walter Mikac with Alannah and Madeline Foundation CEO Sarah Davies.

Did you ever think the foundation would become as successful as it has?

When the Alannah & Madeline Foundation was first launched, we had no funding and it was a huge struggle to survive.

Initially I thought if we can even help a handful or dozens of children then it would be worth it. Alannah and Madeline’s names would be eternally remembered for the good done in their honour.

I have to pinch myself that we are now one of Australia’s major children’s charities.

We administer Dolly’s Dream in honour of Dolly Everett who tragically committed suicide in 2018 after being relentlessly bullied online until she could no longer stand it and took her life.

Having HRH Princess Mary as our international patron has catapulted us in people’s awareness and held us in great stead with support. She has attended a number of our important events over the years.

I now have to pinch myself at what has been achieved by the Alannah & Madeline Foundation over the past 26 years.

We have helped nearly three million children and packed over 120,000 Buddy Bags for vulnerable children and young people.

Walter NMA speech 2023
"The protection of children's rights requires a commitment to creating a society where every child can grow up happy, safe, and strong."

What has been your proudest moment along the way?

There have been so many proud moments over the 26 years but the recent donation of letters between Prime Minister John Howard and myself in 1996 to the National Museum of Australia in June this year reached a real crescendo in acknowledging the changes to gun laws that happened since the Port Arthur massacre.

I still look back and struggle to know how I summoned up that energy during that time but am so proud I did. We have had only one mass shooting since, which is the real legacy to the 35 people who died that day.

The standing ovation I received in Parliament House on June 15 this year, for my determination was a ‘pinch yourself’ moment.

What has been achieved in the names of Alannah and Madeline in this country is what makes me proudest.

Walter beach background

What more needs to be done when it comes to protecting the rights of children and young Australians?

The protection of children's rights requires a commitment to creating a society where every child can grow up happy, safe, and strong.

This involves ongoing advocacy, legislative reforms, and a collective effort to prioritise the wellbeing and rights of children and young people – online, at home, in school and the wider community.

More information

Help children escaping violence by donating to the Alannah and Madeline Foundation

More news

Become a member of ICDA – it's free!