HOW THE SEARCH FOR TONY JONES STARTED A MOVE­MENT

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - CHRIS MCMA­HON chris. mcma­hon@ news. com. au

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

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