Ten years have passed but the pain still runs deep for the families of 15 young people who perished in the Childers backpacker hostel fire in Queensland.
To mark today’s anniversary, a memorial service was held inside the restored hostel, which has since been revamped into a memorial building for the 15 victims, most of whom were from overseas.
Survivors, parents of those killed, British Ambassador Baroness Valerie Amos, Queensland Deputy Premier Paul Lucas and townspeople attended the service.
The town’s mayor Lorraine Pyefinch acknowledged the courage it took for some to return to the site.
“For some of you it will be 10 years since you were here in this building, and I know that this visit and the ceremony here today will bring back some very painful and strong memories,” Ms Pyefinch told the service.
“As a community, Childers, and in fact our whole Bundaberg Regional Council area, thanks you for having the strength to travel here today for this very important anniversary.”
She ended with a message from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd mourning the loss of life and praising the community’s compassion.
“While we mourn the loss of life, I commend this community’s ability to come together in compassion, remembrance and support,” the message concluded.
The fire was deliberately lit by Robert Paul Long, who had been evicted from the hostel and is now serving a life sentence for murder and arson.
Poetic messages read out on behalf of victims’ parents also spoke of a life sentence and of never ending pain.
“My darling daughter where did that smile go. The one that could melt my heart. I would have hidden you away if I’d known we’d had to part. It’s lonely here without you. It’s a shadow life I lead… every moment is a sad and painful need,” one message said.
Another read, “The awful pain of losing you, is still so hard to bear. It’s difficult to have to face the day and know you’re not there.”
New Zealand survivor Richard Tempest told the service he remembered the tragic day well but life must go on.
“I would like to make a special note of Tracey Campbell who sits here today and (who’d) survived the fire,” Mr Tempest said.
“She’s got a beautiful daughter… it’s proof life really does go on.”