The commemoration of the 10th Bali bombing anniversary was demonstration enough that the occasion should be formally recognised. It should become a fixture of the national calendar.

The whole nation deserves a formal chance to ponder and mourn. Pic: Getty Images

Bali Day would never rival ANZAC Day, but rather become its parallel. It is needed to mark the pain and sacrifice and loss on a field other than that of military engagement.

Aunty Jannette (Phillips), a Ngunnawal woman who gave the welcome to country at Canberra observances today put it well: “Once in a while we have to hold our breath.” She was referring to the need to acknowledge shattering loss.

From New York to London to Jakarta and of course to Bali, Australians have been casualties of the cowardly evil of the anonymous bomber, a creature dedicated to killing people, whether they be Christian or Moslem, young or old, civilian or combatant.

It is variously and clumsily give names such as “the war on terror” which is evidence that we continue to have difficulty defining what it is we have been grappling with. Entrenchment of Bali Day would clarify that issue for us.

And it would do more than remember the dead and injured from terrorism attacks. It would honour those who came to their rescue, the people who put themselves through trauma on the bomb site and elsewhere to ease the suffering of others.

Just as ANZAC Day no longer commemorates the fallen at Gallipoli alone, Bali Day could help us remember all victims of terrorist evil.

And just as ANZAC Day has had the wonderful byproduct of bringing the people of Turkey, and Australia and New Zealand closer, Bali day would be a union of shared sorrows and defiance with the people of Indonesia.

It is important that we wrench something positive from this vile atrocity, or our enemies have indeed won. I covered the first anniversary in 2003 and came away with two powerful impressions.

One was from then Prime Minister John Howard. Mr Howard had been allocated a certain amount of time to talk to victims and relatives of victims who had travelled Bali.

They wanted to speak to him, so much that his time quickly was taken up and he was being urged by aides to leave to catch the VIP flight home. “I’m not going until everyone who wants to talk to me has a chance,” said Mr Howard. He ignored his schedule.

It was a remarkable commitment of compassion and leadership, and an indication that those directly affected by the bombings were struggling to account for what had happened.

They and the nation still have this struggle, and it won’t be resolved by treating the anniversary as an ad hoc occasion.

The second impression, just as important, was the blight imposed on the beautiful people of this beautiful island torn by the 2002 detonations. They, too, need to be considered and included in our remembrances.

Late in the day in 2003 there was a brief ceremony across the road from where the Sari Club, just a year before, had been a rollicking hub of cheer and good times.

As it ended a European man, obviously a long-term island resident, sank his head and raised his arm and called loudly, “Bali is good”. A couple of dozen paces away another man echoed the gesture and call.

They were right, and as a nation we need to remember that.

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEST

Most commented


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    • Trevor says:

      12:38pm | 12/10/12

      Or not. Let’s not add to the notion that we are a country of hand-wringing victims.

    • PeterD says:

      12:45pm | 12/10/12

      If it turns into another excuse to have more “welcome to the country” stupidity, then we can do without it.

    • Cam says:

      05:46pm | 12/10/12

      Yes because a terrorist act in another country has SO much to do with indigenous-ness (is that a word?)

    • Penguin says:

      12:49pm | 12/10/12

      Laurie. For God’s sake can we do something simple and practical on the bomb site?

      The Americans did a big thing at World Trade Center in New York for victims of 9/11.

      Ask PM to pressure the Indonesian Govt to pressure the owner of the bomb site in Bali to sell the property at a fair price. We then raise money in Australia and build a monument to the victims of the tragic events. I read it is now a stinking urinal. Do we have any pride to be insulted in this manner?

    • hermano says:

      01:18pm | 12/10/12

      I don’t understand the need for a memorial at the bombing site.

    • scott says:

      01:35pm | 12/10/12


      If I was a local I would hate to have a memorial built there as a constant reminder of what happened.  Rebuild and move on.

    • Marc says:

      03:43pm | 12/10/12

      Why is there a need to have a monument to remember such a tragic event. Monuments such as this also stand as a sign to the terrorists as proof of what they have done and how many they killed.

    • andrew says:

      12:51pm | 12/10/12

      Cue all the anti-American rants.

    • Knemon says:

      01:55pm | 12/10/12

      How many terrorist attacks are the result of failed US foreign policy, they would far outweigh those that are not? The world would be a safer place if America worried more about their own internal problems rather than playing big brother in countries they know or understand little about.

    • Trevor says:

      02:41pm | 12/10/12

      America Fuck Yeah!

      I treasure our alliance.

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      03:49pm | 12/10/12

      The world would be a safer place if cowards didn’t blow up civilians in response to not being happy with what a completely different country is doing. It’s not anyones fault that terrorism exists but those who conduct it.

    • Jason says:

      04:37pm | 12/10/12

      Yes, we should leave it to the UN to solve the worlds problems…..

      Can’t believe I managed to keep a straight face while typing that…..

    • Charles says:

      12:54pm | 12/10/12

      For heavens sake Mal, how many days off do you want?  If we make a day to commemorate every bad thing that has happened to us as a nation, then even over the past couple of hundred years we would have more than enough to fill up every day in the year, and most likely a few days where we had more than one commemoration.

      I don’t know whether this is the new site for silly ideas, but this is a trivial response even for one like yourself.

    • Michael S says:

      12:54pm | 12/10/12

      Much as I’m always up for an extra public holiday; I can’t help thinking that Terrorism Memorial Day would be an excuse for Cronulla-style anti-Muslim riots, and Muslim riots like the ones in Sydney a couple of weeks ago.

    • scott says:

      01:37pm | 12/10/12

      There will also be a few plane loads of bogans who will travel to Bali each year for ‘Bali Day’ to honour the lives lost buy drinking to excess, punching on, harassing the locals and leaving their filfth behind for someone else to clean up.

    • Mark says:

      02:52pm | 12/10/12

      Poor Scott. Did all the girls bar your advances while you were there? Was it too noisy for you after 9pm? Could you not wear your tight jeans in the heat?... Just know that you don’t speak on behalf of the Balanese people. These ‘Bogans’ you speak of (your definition of which is surely anyone who wears a singlet and thongs) have improved the quality of life for people in Bali 10 fold…. Besides, if you have ever been to Bali you would realise that that half your claims are just plain wrong (us harassing them?! I’ve never seen a single bar fight in either Bali or Thailand?!)

    • Matthew says:

      03:36pm | 12/10/12

      Mark, I’m pretty sure scott is referring to what happens at Gallipoli every year.

      I also don’t see the need for us to get a holiday, or for it to get the media attention it does.  It’s been 10 years, it’s time for us to move and let the families remember in peace and quiet.

    • Susan says:

      05:29pm | 12/10/12

      @Scott…just like a planeload of Bondi Surf Lifesaving bogans have flown to Bali to teach lifesaving after so many locals have drowned (and tourists also).  Just like a planeload of AWL vets and nurse bogans flew over this year and helped desex hundreds of street dogs to stem the tide of increasing wandering animals.  Just like our police force and forensic bogans have flown over and helped teach skills.  All free to help a neighbour.

      If THAT is being a bogan…bring on bogan pride.

      Talk about an uneducated comment.

    • meh says:

      12:58pm | 12/10/12

      Definately not, that hands the terrorists a win.

    • Warrenz says:

      01:01pm | 12/10/12

      I don’t think its a good idea when Bali survivor Peter Hughes says that the 10 year anniversary will be his last trip to Bali. He said he needs to put it behind him and you would expect many more of those that survived, and many of the families of those that didn’t, would be like-minded. A national holiday commemorating a criminal act sets a bad precedent too.  Imagine having to relive something like the Port Arthur massacre once per year.

    • A Concerned Citizen says:

      01:08pm | 12/10/12

      I’d say innocent victims of undeserved atrocities through terrorism could warrant our respects. But I do not exactly equate this to willing volunteers putting themselves in danger to protect others.

      Putting that aside, the positive of an extra holiday should be considered that people will treat it as a day off- which may arguably a good way to honor the dead, actually (a day of relaxation and enjoyment on their behalf).

    • Bitten says:

      01:10pm | 12/10/12

      No. Just, no.

    • Baloo says:

      01:21pm | 12/10/12

      I feel it would just turn into another holiday to get drunk for a lot of people, including myself. The meaning of the anniversary would be lost.

    • neil says:

      01:21pm | 12/10/12

      Bali was not a defining moment in our countries history, Bali is not part of our country. In a generation it will just be another note in the history books and most people will not have heard of it.

      Of course it’s tragic for those involved but it was a criminal act in another country, the perpetrators have been brought to justice so it’s time for our nation to move on.

    • mmg says:

      01:35pm | 12/10/12

      There are many more appropriate ways to remember than to have a day off where the majority of people are not going to give two hoots and just use it as an opportunity to go out and get sloshed.  Which, admittedly, is a very Bali thing to do…

    • RJH says:

      02:07pm | 12/10/12

      Should we have a day to remember every Australian killed in a criminal act overseas? or just when there was more than 1 or more than 5 or more than 10?

    • Clare says:

      02:18pm | 12/10/12

      Why do people react as if terrorism is so much worse than anything else? It just gives it more momentum.  Any loss of life is utterly terrible whatever the circumstances - natural or otherwise.  What about the Port Arthur massacre, the Thredbo landslide, the Boxing Day tsunami,  the Black Saturday fires and the Queensland floods. Should all these victims be forgotten? Don’t they deserve a national commemoration?

    • Wisteria says:

      03:50pm | 12/10/12


      The fact that it was the first major loss of Austrlian lives since Vietnam (or the fact that it was a terrorism related offence), should not mean that it holds a greater level of sway over other mass loss of lives.

      And having a public holiday appears to indicate just that - that somehow Bali is more worthy of commeration. I

    • Susan says:

      04:04pm | 12/10/12

      Excellent point Clare.

    • Rob M says:

      05:04pm | 12/10/12

      ‘So why does one [terrorist] tragedy make me want to do a Liam Neeson on the Arab world, while an identical [but naturally caused] tragedy barely registers? Because I’ve been trained like one of Pavlov’s dogs to react a certain way—not to danger, but to monsters. And the fuckers who blew up that nightclub were monsters.’

      That is a direct quote from David Wong, a columnist at an American comedy website ( in an unusually sombre article he wrote barely a week ago. And he’s right. National identity is all about painting ourselves as the good guys. Every good guy needs a bad guy, and it just so happens that terrorists make better bad guys than, say, bushfires. And the reason for that is that terrorists can be hunted down, killed, or made to suffer. And that’s what we need to feel better about our tragedies - a White Whale; an embodiment of all the wrong that was done to us and the tragedy in our lives that can be hunted, hated, and destroyed. It’s sad to admit it, but revenge is much better at firing humans up than grief.

      ‘To the last, I grapple with thee! From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee! With my dying breath, I spit on thee!’

    • Sharz says:

      02:24pm | 12/10/12

      This Government would be better off spending the money on compensating the Bali survivors who have to get on with their lives each and every day with the horrible memory! I think if the Government can hand over $50k to James Ashby we as a country can afford to compensate Bali survivors.

    • Mel says:

      05:50pm | 12/10/12

      Um shouldn’t it be the Indonesian government not the Australian government (i.e. taxpayers) who pay compensation if any?

    • Susan says:

      02:25pm | 12/10/12

      I stopped reading when you suggested Bali Day should become a parallel to ANZAC Day.  Please.

      I hate this sort of piece because disagreeing with it feels like you thrust a knife into the hearts of all the parents and loved ones.  Don’t put us in that position with rhetoric Malcolm.

      Isn’t there a world peace day?  That should wrap anything terrorist into it so by all means call for World Peace Day to be a commemorative day if you must.  That would also enable people to mourn London victims too.  And for Aussies to think of those lost in 9/11 (on top of the U.S.‘s own commemoration event).  And also a raft of other trauma scenarios inflicted by human against human in the name of a ‘cause’.

    • Arnold Layne says:

      02:29pm | 12/10/12

      A discreet memorial built at the site is appropriate.  That’s enough for mine.  Remembering it on the 10th anniversary is also reasonable but we don’t want to get too caught up in the past on these things.

    • R says:

      02:34pm | 12/10/12

      As much as I love the idea of more public holiday, the last thing we need is a “Bali Day” - there are so many things wrong with this notion that I don’t even know where to begin.

      Cue: “Oi mate. I’m going to Bali for Bali Day. I’m going to party all night and get trashed in memory and tribute to all those people who died all them years ago in a night club bombing”

      Do we really to give young Aussies yet another excuse to behave badly in a foreign country - this time in the horribly misued name of a tradgey? Imagine the opportunities for commercialisation that would arise from a national “Bali Day”.

    • Cam says:

      02:53pm | 12/10/12

      That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard Malcolm.

    • L. says:

      02:53pm | 12/10/12

      So, a special day to honour those poor unfortunates who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time..??

      What a stupid notion.

      It’s like the ‘purple heart’...No, you don’t give someone a badge for getting shot, you give them remedial lessons in cover and concealment.

    • Cameron says:

      03:05pm | 12/10/12

      God no.

    • bananabender says:

      03:06pm | 12/10/12

      ANZAC was a publicity myth created by historian CEW Bean. The fact is that the Australians at Gallipoli played a very minor role in an insignificant campaign.

      By the way we literally crept out of Galliopli Cove in the middle of the night after suffrering a humiliating defeat by the Turks.

    • L. says:

      03:15pm | 12/10/12

      “The fact is that the Australians at Gallipoli played a very minor role in an insignificant campaign.’

      It wasn’t the size of the contribution, it was teh size of the sacrifice.

      “By the way we literally crept out of Galliopli Cove in the middle of the night after suffrering a humiliating defeat by the Turks. “

      The withdrawl was a logistical and tactical masterpiece. How many dead in the withdrawl? How many days was it before the Turks even knew the ANZACs were gone?

    • GigaStar says:

      03:30pm | 12/10/12

      bananabender - I think it’s gone over your head - the point to ANZAC is the fact that we suffered a humiliating defeat by the Turks -

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      03:56pm | 12/10/12

      Yeah I get that it’s tragic and so on, but not sure why we celebrate getting our arses handed to us in an attempted invasion of another country.

      “The withdrawl was a logistical and tactical masterpiece.”

      A tactical masterpiece would not have been getting whoop arsed in the first place.

    • Baloo says:

      05:18pm | 12/10/12

      I think we are supposed to celebrate the brave soldiers who were given orders to charge into what was basically a battle they couldn’t win, and did it anyway, rather then the blokes who gave the orders.

    • Fed Up says:

      03:17pm | 12/10/12

      You’ve got to be kidding!!!!!!!!!!!
      Bali Day???
      How do you compare a bunch of piss heads who got blown up with those that sacrificed their lives for their country.

    • Chris Dewberry says:

      03:19pm | 12/10/12

      “Wow, what a great idea” said no-one ever. We’re supposed to have a national holiday that will probably lead to more racism and hatred because of one terrorist attack? What about victims of car crashes, or the people who died on boats on their way to Aus?
      Maybe we could have a whole string of national days to honour everyone and every event that has ever made headlines!
      Or maybe you’re just an idiot.

    • j says:

      03:34pm | 12/10/12

      one of the most stupid ideas i’ve heard this year..

    • Ozziebloke says:

      03:38pm | 12/10/12

      No, we don’t.

    • d.j says:

      03:39pm | 12/10/12

      Yeah, bali day…that’d go off with a bang.

    • ramases says:

      03:43pm | 12/10/12

      No, no a thousand times no. This preoccupation with disaster is getting out of hand. People have to move on however hard it is or their lives become meaningless. If people involved directly or indirectly want to hold memorial services then so be it but most people have moved on and a constant reminder is not what is needed.
        It was sad that it happened and I feel sorry for those effected and it woke Australians up to the fact that we were no immune to terrorist actions but to perpetuate the day is no way for a country to move forward. There is no possible excuse for having a special day for this in any way.

    • PJs Ronin says:

      03:44pm | 12/10/12

      Australia needs less people coming up with ideas that don’t amount to hill of beans.

    • OzTrucker says:

      03:45pm | 12/10/12

      I feel for the families that lost loved ones. But I would have to vote no to Bali day for all the reasons listed by the others. As for compensation, I would vote no to that as well.

      Commemorating ten years is ok but it should come to an end now. Moving on is the only victory that should be claimed.

    • Geoff says:

      03:47pm | 12/10/12

      Typical laboUr loving unionist, Malcolm.  Anything for another bludge.  Get back to work.  As for compensating survivors - have they heard of travel insurance?  Although, thinking more, about it, and mongrel insurance companies, terrorism is probably listed in their exemptions.

    • Geoff says:

      03:51pm | 12/10/12

      Your comment on John Howard, in 2003, Malcolm:  “It was a remarkable commitment of compassion and leadership,...”
      I am glad that you said that as we have not seen any compassion or leadership since the 2007 election.g

    • Chris says:

      04:18pm | 12/10/12

      Oh ok, I get it… to remember bali we should create another opportunity to drive up labour costs by making businesses pay a day’s wages for people to stay home or pay a penalty to make them come to work…

      Actually… given I work for a company that sells overseas business processing to Aussie businesses that would be great as I could add another half a percent to my ‘on-costs’ calculator to make my product look even more compelling. Great Idea!!!

    • Bolverk says:

      04:35pm | 12/10/12

      Tragedy aside, the victims accomplished nothing more worth honouring than the weekend patronage of any Australian bar. Death is an inescapable part of life, and there are quite enough public holidays as it is.

    • lostinperth says:

      04:40pm | 12/10/12

      No we don’t.

    • Jason says:

      04:45pm | 12/10/12

      I am sure we dont need a Bali day we need a lot of things in our beautiful county but a bali day is not one of them.

    • stephen says:

      05:03pm | 12/10/12

      It’s supposed to be a tragedy, not an extravaganza, Mr. Farr.
      But if you want a memorial to Bali’s near permanent tourist collapse, then let them pay for it : after all, the act was completed on their watch, by their people, wasn’t it ?

    • Daniel says:

      05:28pm | 12/10/12

      The major prties will never allow another national public holiday. Not going to happen.

    • JM says:

      05:45pm | 12/10/12

      Friday lunch time - are you partaking already

    • Fiona says:

      05:54pm | 12/10/12

      Don’t you think it’s bad enough the Balinese had to put up with the influx of people therefore the risk of reprisal terrorist attacks?

    • jon says:

      05:57pm | 12/10/12

      I saw some tattooed, singlet, silly baseball hat and thong wearing bogans there on the news. What a marvellous advertisement for Australian culture, but sadly that’s the demographic that goes to Bali anyway. At least they all congregate in the one place so it’s easily avoided.


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