Condolences for families affected by downing of MH17

All of us in this House who were here on that Friday, the last Friday of sittings, will remember our own shock and horror at the news of the downing of MH17.

But then, I think, the one thing that I saw in my colleagues’ faces was an awareness that our shock and horror was only just the thought of it, the compounding of that shock and horror in the relatives of those who had lost family members—all of those lives that were lost in the downing of MH17.

This is a condolence motion, but there is no easy way for us to pass on our condolences to those who lost loved ones in the tragedy of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. Whilst at times it is easy to say that we can understand, almost, the emotions and sorrows that result, really—unless you have been through it yourself, or a situation quite similar, and lost loved ones in a similar situation—the truth is we actually cannot understand it.

We try our best to, but we cannot. Even though we may not personally know how the family members are feeling, we do know that, if we could ease their pain, we would. I hope that all of those who have lost in this way take some comfort from the number of people—not just in this place but around Australia and around the world—who would actually ease their pain if they could—if they could. And we all feel that way.

Even though no members in my electorate themselves were lost on that fateful day, the grandparents of the three young Maslin children live in Dunsborough, in my electorate.

And in this situation we had a grandfather, Nick Norris, with his three young grandchildren on MH17 coming back to Australia; the family had been in Europe for a holiday. And, of course, Leonie and Bob Maslin are the grandparents of Mo, Evie and Otis Maslin and they live in Dunsborough, as I said, in the south-west; and they are some of the world’s beautiful people.

That is the only way I can describe them. Leonie and Bob are just some of the world’s beautiful people. Of course, this was just such a dreadful and tragic day for them and their whole family. What I do know in talking with them is that, for them, it is a day that has no end.

The day has no end; they never wake up the next day and find things are different. It is the same day after day after day for this family.

What an incredible amount of courage the whole family has shown. I cannot put into words the respect I have for all of them, and Leonie and Bob themselves: their courage in this and their willingness to actually try to help those around them who are also suffering and wanting to offer support; their courage in dealing with people who really often do not know what to say to them. Leonie and Bob are just the best people.

And it is taking a lot of courage for them and their son and the rest of the family to get through this, and particularly for Mo and Evie and Otis’s parents, Anthony Maslin and Marite Norris. Marite lost her father as well: Nick Norris was on that flight and he was bringing the children home. I saw—it was only perhaps the next day or so—Anthony go to the football match to talk to Mo’s mates: the boys he played footy with. The children cannot understand this.

So Anthony went along, as did Rin, to talk to these young people. And as enduring an image as Australian Rules football is, so was the fact that here was this brave family talking to these young people to make it easier for them. That is what the family has done: tried to make it easier for everyone around them to try to deal with this.

The one thing I want to read into the Hansard is the actual words of Anthony and Marite Norris—the parents of Mo, who was 12; Evie, who was 10; and Otis, who was eight—in the message that they released. This is what they said:

A message to the soldiers in the Ukraine, the politicians, the media, our friends and family.

Our pain is intense and relentless. We live in a hell beyond hell.

Our babies are not here with us—we need to live with this act of horror, every day and every moment for the rest of our lives.

No one deserves what we are going through.

Not even the people who shot our whole family out of the sky.

No hate in the world is as strong as the love we have for our children, for Mo, for Evie, for Otis.

No hate in the world is as strong as the love we have for Grandad Nick.

No hate in the world is as strong as the love we have for each other.

This is a revelation that gives us some comfort.

We would ask everyone to remember this when you are making any decisions that affect us and the other victims of this horror.

So far, every moment since we arrived home, we’ve been surrounded by family and friends. We desperately pray that this continues, because this expression of love is what is keeping us alive. We want to continue to know about your lives, all the good and all the bad.

We no longer have lives that we want to live by ourselves. So we’d like to take the chance to thank everyone, all our incredible friends, family and communities, and to tell you all that we love you very much.

We would also like to thank the people at DFAT; the local co-ordinator Claire and most sincerely, Diana and Adrian from The Hague, without whom we would not be here. We ask the media to respect the privacy of our family and friends — pain is not a story.

Yours truly

Anthony Maslin & Marite Norris

I think that, for all of us in this place, our thoughts and our hearts go out to all of the Maslin family, including Bob and Leonie, the grandparents.

And I saw how well we worked together when I went to visit them. The community, of course, rallies, as we do very well. They had food, they had people visiting them, and even last week the arms of the community were around Leonie and Bob, as they are around the family in Perth.

And so I know that they have had incredible support, but I would also—perhaps on their behalf—like to thank the Prime Minister; the foreign minister, Julie Bishop; the officials; our Public Service staff; the consular officials; DFAT; and the AFP people. The one thing that the family has had most of from all of our great people who work with us and for us in this place is incredible compassion and caring, and all the support they could possibly want.

So we thank all of our people who have helped not just this family but every other family around Australia.