To honour terrorism victims, Australia needs a Bali Day
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.
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.
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