Tony Abbott spoke at the Memorial Service in Melbourne this morning for the victims of the downed Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.
Here’s what he said.
It is an honour to be here in this cathedral dedicated to God and to the better angels of our natures, with the religious and civic leaders of our country, in sorrow and in solidarity with the families of the victims of MH17 on this National Day of Mourning.
Three weeks ago tomorrow, the families of 38 Australians woke up to the very worst news imaginable. Their plane had been shot out of the sky and 298 innocent people murdered, including 38 men, women and children who called Australia home.
Children had lost parents, parents had lost children and an aching void had opened in hundreds of lives made worse by the wanton cruelty of shooting down a passenger jet.
There will be a time to judge the guilty, but today we honour the dead and we grieve with the living.
We cannot bring them back, but we will bring them home, as far as we humanly can.
We do rededicate ourselves today to supporting the bereaved, to obtaining justice for the dead and for their families and to working for a better world.
Today the Australian nation expresses its gratitude for the lives so cruelly cut short and we express our solidarity with those who love them.
The dead of flight MH17 reflect what’s best in modern Australia: doctors who work with refugees, teachers who work with indigenous people and children with disabilities, volunteers in our armed forces and with local charities, business innovators and pillars of local communities, young people filled with passion for the life before them.
What could be more typical of modern Australia than a Malaysian married to a Dutchman, raising their children in outer-metropolitan Melbourne? And what predicament could be more heart-rending than that of a family now bereft of the children that are every parents’ greatest joy?
When those we love are snatched away, nothing can ease the pain. Somehow we who have not been bereaved must reach out to those who have and show, by our love, that love has not abandoned them.
You have not been abandoned and you never will be.
As the news of this atrocity broke right around our country, friends and family began calling and visiting those whose world had been shattered. Within a couple of hours, consular officials were making contact with families to let them know that their country was with them in their darkest moments.
Within 24 hours, hundreds of personnel had been mobilised in Canberra and hundreds more were being mobilised to go abroad to bring home our dead with respect and with dignity.
Hundreds of unarmed Australian police and military have been working around the clock to recover remains and belongings from a war zone. Because this is what Australians do in times of trouble. We reach out to people and do what we can to help. We try to create order in the midst of chaos and we try to inject decency into the vilest of situations.
We cannot fill the void in people’s hearts. We cannot dull the ache of loss. We cannot resolve the mystery of needless suffering and death but we can armour ourselves against despair by responding to evil with good – unconquerable good.
As the Maslin family have so beautifully put it – love conquers hate.
So I salute all those who have rallied to their fellow Australians and to all the other victims of MH17 and I especially acknowledge Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, our envoy in Ukraine.
Mostly though, I pay tribute to all those who have lost loved ones. Some of you I have spoken with. Your decency, resilience and compassion have been both humbling and uplifting.
One of you even asked me how I was bearing up because in the depths of your own pain, you were still thinking of others.
Long ago it was written “there is a time to die, a time to weep and a time to mourn”, there is also a time to mend, a time to love, a time for peace and a time for keep.
In time, our thoughts will linger not on how the passengers of flight MH17 died, but on how they lived.
We will remember them as they were – joyful, open, kind and optimistic. A home-sick poet, Dorothea Mackellar, once wrote: “wherever I may die, I know to what brown country my homing thoughts will fly”.
May those who are lost arrive home to the people and the country they loved.
May the God of mercy comfort those left behind and may the God of justice answer all our prayers.
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