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In the weeks after Walter Mikac lost his wife Nanette, and two daughters, Alannah and Madeline, in the Port Arthur Massacre, he found some comfort in little notes written by 6-year-old Alannah.
More than two decades later, those notes would be the catalyst for a book - Letters of Love: Words from the heart published by Affirm Press.
The book is penned by more than 50 well-known Aussies including Jimmy Barnes, Leigh Sales, Layne Beachley and Rex Hunt. Their letters are to their children, partners, parents and in Cameron Daddo's case, to his future self.
It is all about sending some love and positivity back into the community, something Walter says he was bombarded with back in 1996, after the shooting. And as you flip through the pages, the overriding message is clear - no matter our background, experience, age or views, we are all capable of love.
The book's release marks the 20th year of the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, an organisation started by Walter to keep children safe from violence. Since 1997, the foundation has helped close to 2 million children across Australia. They pride themselves on their "buddy bags", a backpack of essential items like toothbrushes, pyjamas, socks and teddies, given to kids who find themselves in emergency accommodation.
All profits from the book go to the Foundation, so they can keep doing their brilliant work.
Below is an extract* from broadcaster Leigh Sales' letter to her two sons:
Daniel, I love that when we approach a tunnel, you say, “3-2-1” and then shout, “ARRRRGHHHHHHHH” for the whole time we are inside it and then dissolve into fits of hysterical laughter.
James, I love that you always shout “NUDEY RUN” after your shower and then sprint around the house so I cannot catch you. Daniel, I love that you think ‘Make ‘em Laugh’ is the best number in ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ because I do too.
Most of all, I love that you are MY boys. You are sweet and funny and I hope that you grow up to be kind-hearted men.
*This letter is extracted from Letters of Love: Words from the heart penned by prominent Australians, published by Affirm Press in partnership with the Alannah & Madeline Foundation. All profits from book sales go directly to the Alannah & Madeline Foundation. Available now.