The Sunday Mail (Queensland)

SHOT DOWN: NEVER AGAIN

- JULIE BISHOP FOREIGN MINISTER

THE first anniversar­y on July 17 of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is a poignant reminder of the senseless loss of 298 innocent lives.

I remember only too well my horror and disbelief when I was told in the early hours of July 18 last year that a Malaysia Airlines plane had been downed over Ukraine. There were no survivors and the wreckage had landed in what was essentiall­y a war zone.

Our immediate priority was to ensure any Australian victims were located, treated with dignity and respect, and returned home to their loved ones. Obtaining access to the crash site, amid fierce fighting between Ukrainian armed forces and armed separatist­s, was difficult. We had to negotiate passage through the Ukraine Parliament to ensure that Australian Federal Police and the Australian Defence Force personnel had all the rights and protection­s they needed to do their jobs in Ukraine and the Netherland­s.

The most heartbreak­ing aspect of such a tragedy is the pain and suffering of the loved ones of those killed. I spoke to many of the Australian families of the men, women and children who had died. I attended ceremonies at Eindhoven Airport for the arrival of the remains of the first of the victims, who were transporte­d from Ukraine on Dutch and Australian air force C17s. I attended the memorial service in Perth for the three Maslin children and their grandfathe­r. Words cannot adequately capture the depth of grief.

A year on, our consular staff are continuing to support the families of the victims of MH17, including the return of the remains and belongings of the victims to their families. We continue to grieve for those aboard that fateful flight. We will continue to do all we can to make sure that the perpetrato­rs are held to account and that never again will a commercial plane, in commercial airspace, be shot from

the skies.

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