BALI. WE WILL NOT FORGET
Under tight security, Julia Gillard arrived in Bali last night to pay her respects to victims lost in the Bali Bombings 10 years ago.
Urging all Australians to take time to reflect on the decade since the terrorist attacks devastated countless people’s lives around the world, she shared this message.
I ARRIVED back in Australia from Bali on Friday, October 11, 2002. My sister and I, my nephew and a friend of his had been there for a holiday. I stayed in Ubud.
My sister and I walked through the rice fields and the countryside with a Balinese guide.
He showed us his village and his family home; he told us how he had left his village at the age of 14 to live and work at the hotel at which we were staying. When he had left home he was younger than the nephew I was travelling with.
As payment for his work as a houseboy, the hotel owner had paid his school fees, and 16 years later, he was still at work there. We talked about the future of tourism in Bali and how important visitors were to his work and life.
When I woke up at home on Saturday the 12th, I could still feel the warm, humid Balinese air. I could still see in my mind’s eye the Hindu offerings which are everywhere as you walk around the streets. I could still hear the voices of the Balinese people in restaurants and in the streets making a fuss of the children who visit.
And then on Sunday morning, all those memories changed. The warmth and humidity that we had loved took on a different meaning as we watched people carry bags of ice into the makeshift morgues.
The streets of Kuta that had been the site of simple family pleasures for us became a place where people desperately searched for their loved ones, living and dead. I could only imagine how my family would have felt if our holiday had been timed slightly differently: I could picture my parents desperately trying to find out whether members of their family were safe.
The Bali Bombings killed 202 people in Kuta on 12 October, 2002. Image by Erik De Castro via abc.net.au.
This was the torment that so many Australian families went through on that dreadful day. And, of course, it is not just Australians who suffered: many Balinese were killed and injured, along with the nationals of many other countries.
Those of us who know Bali always felt that there was something particularly perverse and terrible in a violent attack against people in such a peaceful and welcoming place.
When I left Bali 10 years ago, I looked forward to returning there one day.
Today, I return to Bali for a very sad duty, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. Families will be travelling there. Many dignitaries will gather to pay their respects. It will be a day in which we remember what that moment was like for Australians.
I will be there to remember the worst and the best in human life. The worst: this shocking murder of innocent people by fanatics motivated by hate and trying to spread that hate to all. And the best: the courage and compassion of so many ordinary people caught up in this extraordinary event.
The families and the friends of those who died and those who were grievously injured will be there to remember the day their life changed. There is always this divide in their lives: this line between the days “before Bali” and “after Bali”.
I hope that, amid the sorrow and pain they will feel this week, they will also be able to hang on to the joy and love of their old life.
At our best, Australians are a brave and carefree people: we have built a great nation at home, and when we travel the world we are welcome wherever we go.
When I’ve been lucky enough to travel overseas, I always smile when I hear someone say “the Australians are here”. We show an optimistic and resolute face to the world. No one ever complains that we are too quiet.
The people who attacked us in Bali wanted to kill the Australians who were there — but they wanted to change the rest of us as well. The terrorists wanted to make us people who hate. They wanted to divide us against each other, they wanted to divide us from our friends in Bali, in the rest of Indonesia and the world.
They failed, and they failed for a reason, because we are better than that and we are better than them. In the worst of circumstances, Australians did what we always do: we stuck together, we took care of each other, we took care of our friends.
I hope all Australians, wherever you are, take a moment to pause and reflect on all that we lost that day.