HOW THE SEARCH FOR TONY JONES STARTED A MOVEMENT
IN a little church in Western Australia over 30 years ago, the family of one the best known missing persons cases in Australia planted the seed of an idea that would grow into National Missing Persons Week.
On November 3, 1982, a young backpacker named Tony Jones, on a trip around the country, called his family from a pay phone on Bowen Road, Townsville, to check in and let them know he was getting set to continue his trip by hitchhiking to Mount Isa. Tony was never heard from again.
A year later, on the anniversary of his disappearance, Tony’s brother Brian Jones turned to what he knew best at the time, the church.
On the morning of November 3, 1983, at the Infant Jesus church in Morley, Perth, a service was held in Tony’s memory. They called it the “Mass for Missing Persons”.
In 1988, National Missing Persons Week was launched in the first week of August, and has been a crucial week in the search for missing people.
The family, like a dog with a bone, has continued looking for answers to what happened to their brother, searching for his body – an inquest heard Tony had likely been murdered – and campaigning for better measures to be put in place to help find people who go missing, so no other family has to go through what they have.
Brian said it had not always been easy, but it had been the greatest fight of their life.
“On November 3, 1983, we weren’t sure what to do. It’s not a funeral, we didn’t know what to do, so we had a church service and called it the Mass for Missing Persons,” Mr Jones said.
“The idea was for us to remember Tony on his anniversary, but we will try to bring in all those who have gone missing for one reason or another, to our consciousness.
“In the beginning it was just a small church event. It wasn’t until a few years later when I moved over to Sydney and I had access to a few other resources that we got under way.”
He said it got to 1988 and the idea had been lingering in the back of his mind for a few years, before he sought the help of an old journalist friend.
“The idea kind of lingered for a few years. In 1988, I was thinking of trying to take the idea to another level and I called in a favour from an old Perth journalist who was a friend of Ita Buttrose,” Mr Jones said.
“( Buttrose) was the chief editor of a few Sydney newspapers. I thought if I could get the media behind it, I might be able to do something.
“I remember going to talk to her and I said, ‘ So how do we go about setting up Missing Persons Week?’ and with a little wave of the hand she says, ‘ Oh, we’ll just declare it.’
“I went home rather emboldened by what she said and I looked at my diary and the first week in August was free so I said, ‘ I hereby declare the first week in August Missing Persons Week’.”
Spurred on by the conversation with Buttrose, Brian went home and began filling out forms.
“I filled in a form for this government agency and put in some details about Missing Persons Week, the first week in August, and it asked by whom and I thought, ‘ OK’, so I called it the National Missing Persons