In a moving memorial service at Parliament House on 17 July, the nation and its leaders paused to remember the 298 people killed when flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine last year.
The service, broadcast live, marked a year since the disaster. It was attended by families and friends of 38 Australians who were among those lost, as well as members of the Australian Federal Police and Australian Defence Force who participated in Operation BRING THEM HOME.
Defence played a significant role in enabling the Netherlands-led police mission to establish itself in Ukraine and conduct its task within a deteriorating security environment.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he was humbled by the strength and grace of the loved ones of those who died.
“Those of us who have not been so tested stand in awe of those who have and who have kept going through unimaginable suffering,” he said.
“Their passing leaves a void that can never be filled and a pain that still throbs. Nothing that is said or done will bring them back.
“Little will ease the grief that all who knew them still feel. Still, this national acknowledgment of that grief may be of some comfort to all who mourn.”
Vice Chief of Defence, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs also attended the service said he was proud of the Australian Defence Force involvement in the operation.
“The speed at which the Australian Federal Police and Australian Defence Force were able to react to something so absolutely unexpected was exceptional,” he said.
“To put nearly 300 people into the Netherlands and Ukraine so quickly in a very uncertain and dangerous environment is testament to the Australian Defence Force’s professionalism.
“To operate where we don’t normally operate, where there is a significant language barrier, in the middle of a raging civil war was just extraordinary.
“The repatriation effort conducted by the C-17A Globemaster crews, along with the personnel on the ground, was an exceptional team effort.
“We had people in Germany, the Netherlands and Ukraine, and they all really pulled together.”
Vice Admiral Griggs said he was moved by the service.
“It was incredibly sad, especially seeing all the photographs of the victims being projected on the screens,” he said.
“I don’t think you could be in that room and not be affected by it.”
The Royal Australian Navy Band provided musical support to the service.