CONDOLENCES: Bali Bombing: 10th Anniversary

Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (18:12): The Riverina, as with the rest of the nation and beyond, mourned deeply on Friday, 12 October 2012, the day which marked the 10th anniversary of the 2002 Bali bombings. Tears were shed for lives cut all too short. Many prayers were said throughout the electorate and certainly throughout the nation and beyond. I attended the very moving national memorial service held here in the Great Hall to mark a decade since that dreadful day.

Three young Riverina men—David Mavroudis from Wagga Wagga, Clint Thompson from Leeton and Shane Walsh-Till, originally from Coolamon—were among the 88 Australians and 202 overall who lost their lives on that dreadful day. I knew Shane and I knew the family of David Mavroudis.

Dr Fiona Wood AM gave a truly inspirational address. It was so good that I remarked to Senator Bridget McKenzie from Victoria, who was beside me, that it was the best speech I had ever heard, and I have heard some good ones. Senator McKenzie replied, 'That's a big call,' but she agreed that it was truly moving and truly inspirational. A burn specialist, Dr Wood led a team working to save many patients suffering from between two and 92 per cent body burns, deadly infections and delayed shock. I know all Australians, and especially the families and friends of those who lost loved ones, were feeling a deep sense of sadness that day. During the ceremony survivors, family members and others placed flowers on a national memorial wreath and, fittingly, the Australian flag at Parliament House was at half-mast.

The lives of those 202 people, including the 88 Australians, were not taken by accident. They did not die as a result of a natural disaster and they certainly did not die by choice. They were not fighting a war but they died in a war that was just beginning. Australians have not felt such a loss since World War II or perhaps Vietnam—but certainly not that many on one day. The attack resulted in the greatest single loss of Australian lives overseas in peacetime. That day, 12 October, was the continuation of a modern war for Australians, yet we were fighting it without weapons. The fallen were not soldiers. They were not trained to fight in combat. Their only crime was taking a holiday, getting away from their usual, busy lives. Due to a selfish and callous act, 88 Australians were stolen from their families and friends in a fight they did not know they were involved in, and the lives of those left behind were divided into 'before' and 'after'—life before the Bali bombings and life after, what has transpired since.

The bombs that ripped through the Sari Club in Kuta came after the dreadful 9/11 attacks on the United States in 2011, a great tragedy which destroyed great symbols of American freedom and surely tested their tough exterior. Australians were affected. Some were shaken and others a little bit wary, but no-one could have imagined that we too would face an attack on our doorstep. No great Australian icon or building was destroyed, but the indelible Australian spirit was surely tested, as that of the Americans was on 9/11, our sense of freedom and our feeling of safety tainted, and our innate sense of trust ruined.

As a nation we were hurt, bruised and in a state of shock. However, what followed that frightful event showed that we as a country were not going to lie down. We picked ourselves up and rallied around those who needed the most help, including our many friends in Indonesia. I said our innate sense of trust had been ruined, but it was ruined for only a short time, because it has certainly been picked up, renewed and restored since. In the words of former Prime Minister John Howard at the 10th anniversary commemoration, the attack had tested Australia's character and it had 'passed with flying colours'. He said:

I salute the Australian spirit that came through at that time …

The bombings in Bali showed just how small our large country is. In a case of two degrees of separation, Australians all over the world felt the impact of the deaths of their countrymen and countrywomen. In some way, people found a connection to those lost, whether it was a neighbour from when they were young, a student at their school or a teammate in their sporting side. Many Australians shared a connection with the families and friends grieving, and the entire nation was left to try to comprehend the horror which had struck.

In my electorate of Riverina, the tragedy struck close to home. The Monday after the bombings, the local press read 'Riverina men missing as death toll mounts'. It was not until Friday, 18 October that the final number of people lost from my regional electorate was, sadly realised: three men were gone forever more. They were husbands, brothers, sons and friends, and the entire Riverina felt their loss.

On 15 October, Leeton man Clint Thompson, 29, and Wagga Wagga man David Mavroudis, the same age, were confirmed as being amongst the dead. Clint had worked 27 hours straight to earn himself a holiday in Bali, and the trip lasted less than 36 hours. The former Leeton man was one of two Riverina boys who were in Bali as part of an end-of-year footy trip with the Coogee Beach Dolphins. Clint was the president and a player on the team, and had helped organise the holiday, which claimed the lives of six other players from their team. Clint was the son of Sandra and Robert Thompson of Leeton. He was the second oldest in a family of seven children. He had five brothers, Trent, Ryan, Brock, Zaide and Caleb, and a sister, Farrah. A number of his brothers played with him at the Coogee Beach Dolphins. Mrs Thompson, who still resides in Leeton, has been a strong voice in bringing justice to those who lost someone in the bombings—in particular, the three lost from the Riverina. She told the local Leeton paper, the Irrigator:

I still believe that along with the other 87 Australians murdered in Bali, they deserve to be honoured with a bush rock opposite the Leeton Visitor Information Centre.

I have seen the amount of Australians that visit the memorial in Coolamon and Sydney and know that nearly everyone knew or is related to someone who was murdered.

Mrs Thompson returned to Bali for the 10th anniversary.

David Mavroudis was also on the end-of-year football trip with fellow Riverina teammate Clint Thompson. David died alongside his football mates, doing what he loved most; photos taken just before the event tell of the good time he was having. David was the only son of John and Colleen Mavroudis of Wagga Wagga, and a loving brother to his sister, Jane. He was a computer programmer and an accomplished sportsman and was described by his mates as a great bloke who touched the lives of many across the state.

Coolamon-born teacher Shane Walsh-Till, 32, with whom I played cricket at St Michael's, was the last Riverina man to be declared amongst the dead. Although missing since the blast, his wife, Melanie, and his family never gave up hope and continued, in vain, to search for him.

The former St Francis de Sales College Leeton teacher was residing in Hong Kong at the time of his death and was in Bali on a holiday with his wife, Melanie, and her sister. He stayed, sadly, for one more drink and, unfortunately, that was the time the blast occurred. The son of Coolamon couple Bill and Barbara Till, Shane was well known in the Coolamon, Wagga Wagga and Leeton communities through his sport and his work as a teacher. He was loved by the kids. The kids thought the world of him. He was one of those people who had infectious enthusiasm. He was a great person and he had so much more to offer as a schoolteacher, as a husband and as a friend.

It has been 10 long years for these three families, and their loved ones are part of a long, sad list of people who went on a relaxing holiday never to return. October 12 is a day to reminisce, reflect and allow families to look on time lost and remember time passed. It is a day marred forever by sadness, but those victims shall not have died in vain. They will live on forever in the hearts of their loved ones and in the hearts of Australians everywhere.

I will finish with the words of Fiona Wood. Before I do, I should also mention at that national memorial service in Parliament House the wonderful welcome to country which was given by Janette Phillips, a Ngunnawal elder, who also spoke of hope. She spoke of how Australians everywhere are united in times of crisis. In that welcome to country she ventured in her speech to things about Bali and to also other things that unify the nation. It was a wonderful speech that she gave. There was also a remarkable address by Dr Wood who spoke of:

The strength of resilience, to face such horror, and to keep going, knowing there is a bright future ahead when we’ve seen the future of so many beautiful smiles snuffed away.

She said:

I see within those hearts, resilience that is inspirational. Love that is selfless. And an energy that as we work in our field to make sure that the quality of the outcome is worth the pain of survival, I see an energy across Australia, in all sorts of areas.

All you have to do is look for it. And to connect with it, and it will grow. So that we can pass on a history that we are proud of.

An Australia that we are proud of, borne on strength, resilience, love and raw human energy.

Doing the best we can for each other.

She certainly did the best for those victims of the Bali bombings. She certainly did the best for those families who needed help, the likes of Jason McCartney, the North Melbourne footballer, and for others for their survival and their return to a normal life. Of course it will not be normal because of what they endured, but those survivors of Bali have contributed so much to society. They will make sure that we never forget the tragedy, and certainly the remarkable efforts of Dr Fiona Wood and others to help those victims is truly inspirational. As a country we say thanks to them and as a country we say we will never forget that dreadful day.

Cristy Houghton