While all of us share the huge spirit of national mourning over Bali, we do not think that the first anniversary of the sinking of SIEVX on 19 October 2001 in Australia's border protection zone, which drowned 353 people mostly women and children, should now be 'blanked out' of our consciousness. Many of the SIEVX victims' families were waiting for them in Australia. Respecting this anniversary does still matter.
The best way we can explain this is to ask: if a dear friend or family member had died a year ago today, would you not still wish to commemorate that? Surely our hearts are big enough for both griefs.
Please give appropriate and sensitive news recognition to the forthcoming commemorations around Australia of the first anniversary of the sinking of SIEVX and the deaths of 353 asylum-seekers in Australia's border protection zone on 19 October 2001.
Here is the text of a (paid by public subscription) memorial notice that will appear around Australia in the 'Weekend Australian' tomorrow 19 October. The (small) balance of subscriptions left over after the cost of the notice will go to helping survivor families in Australia.
This is an issue investigated by the Senate Select Committee into a Certain Maritime Incident which is due to hand down its report in the Senate on Wednesday 23 October. Four newspapers ( The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Australian and Canberra Times) have already editorialised during recent months, saying that many serious questions of Australian offical agencies' accountability are unanswered, and that there needs to be a full judicial enquiry.
TONY KEVIN'S 1st ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATIVE SPEECH
The tragedy in Bali seven days ago casts a shadow over what I had expected to be an occasion for positive affirmation of decent community values, to do with ordinary Australians' sense of common humanity, truth and justice. I had looked forward to this day as a chance for people around Australia to come together to say publicly to the survivors and bereaved of SIEVX - 'we have at last as a community acknowledged your grief, we have tried today however imperfectly to share it and to honour it. We are sorry'.
To say sorry after such a year of dishonesty and evasion about SIEVX on the part of our government Ministers and senior officials is a liberating experience: for the truth does set one free.
But after Bali, my colleagues and I had to examine our consciences. Was it right to continue with our public observances of this major Australian tragedy that took place one year ago, when our country must now confront a new and huge public and personal tragedy only a week old ? When tomorrow, Sunday 20 October, has been declared as a day of national mourning for the victims of the Bali bombing?
We concluded that it was right for us to go ahead: because there can only be one answer to the question: do the deaths in Bali a week ago of large numbers of innocent people who are dear to us, in any way diminish the importance of the deaths on SIEVX a year ago of large numbers of equally innocent people who are dear to us? We could not in conscience say to the bereaved families of SIEVX: 'We are sorry, we are no longer prepared to try to share with you your pain on the first anniversary of the death of your loved ones, because another grief has overtaken this now'.
The right course for us is to mourn for the two events at the same time. Surely our hearts are big enough to accommodate both griefs. Certainly the hearts of the Woomera and Villawood detainees are, as shown by their warm condolence message to the families of the victims of Bali.
In a direct factual sense, these two major tragedies have nothing to do with each other. In a deeper moral and ethical sense, each may help us in time to deepen our understanding of the other.
We are trying to get the balance right - please respect our good faith. And to anyone who may vilify us for our SIEVX observances this weekend, or claim that what we are doing is inappropriate, we simply offer a gentle reminder of our common humanity: 'Does anyone think that the families of the 353 people who died on 19 October 2001 grieved for their loved ones any less than the many families around Australia who are grieving now?'
This morning, many of us took part in a non-political multi-faith memorial service to the SIEVX victims. Now I am here to talk about the challenges that our Parliament, media and society face in recognising the emerging truth about the sinking of SIEVX, and to do something about it...[Click here for complete article].