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April 18, 2021

Missing persons: individuals not statistics

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Every day people disappear without a trace. This has been highlighted recently on the far north coast by the disappearance of Belgian backpacker Théo Hayez. After weeks of searching by both the police and community volunteers, there are still no clues as to where he is.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) National Missing Persons Coordination Centre (NMPCC) is shining a spotlight on Australia’s long term missing with the launch of National Missing Persons Week (NMPW) from August 4 to 10.

In Australia, a missing person is defined as anyone who is reported missing to police, whose whereabouts are unknown, and where there are fears for the safety or concern for the welfare of that person. A long-term missing person is someone who has been missing for more than three months.

Eight people who are the focus of this year’s annual National Missing Persons Week. Photo AFP.

The aim of National Missing Persons Week is to create awareness throughout the wider Australian community, targeting those who have never thought about a missing person or the impact it has on their families and friends.

In its 31st year, National Missing Persons Week aims to continue this narrative by focusing on ‘individuals not statistics’ – the theme of this year’s campaign. It’s about going beyond the statistics of Australia’s missing population and focusing on the individuals.

AFP Commander Justine Gough who among her roles, manages the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre, said it is sometimes easy to generalise the 2,600 long term missing persons in Australia and lose the essence of the individual.

Not just “missing persons”

‘The people captured in the statistic are not just “missing persons”,’ said Gough. ‘They are fathers, daughters, and sons; students, chefs and academics. We don’t want people to forget that.’

As part of the National Missing Persons Week campaign for 2019, the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre is profiling eight long-term missing persons from around the nation. Unlike previous years, the new design removes the ‘persons’ from National Missing Persons Week and replaces it with the name of the real person being profiled.

The eight profiles have been selected by the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre in consultation with State and Territory Missing Persons Units and include Andrew Dymott (VIC), Ashley Bindon (NSW), David Mansell (SA), Martyn Tann (WA), Michael Lorenz-Schrader (QLD), Nazrawi Woldemichael (TAS), Rebecca Hayward (NT), and Wendy Dalla (ACT).

To complement the profiling element of the campaign, the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre have also joined forces with media personalities and social media influencers to amplify messaging on social media during National Missing Persons Week.

AFP Commander Gough said that no-one is immune to the social issue and that it’s all of our responsibility to help raise awareness to reduce the incidence and impact ‘missingness’ has on our society.

Anyone may face the issue of someone they know becoming a missing person

‘Anyone, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity or educational background, may face the issue of someone they know becoming a missing person,’ she said. ‘It is crucial we reach the wider Australian community – those who have never thought about a missing person, or who believe the impact of a missing person will never affect them.

‘The community also plays a critical role in helping police find people who go missing, and we urge anyone with information relating to a missing person, no matter how small, to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000,’ said Commander Gough.

Members of the community sharing their stories and support throughout National Missing Persons Week 2019 are encouraged to use the hashtags #IndividualsNotStatistics and #NMPW2019 in support of this year’s campaign

National Missing Persons Week is supported by the Outdoor Media Association. For more information on the NMPCC and NMPW 2019 and to watch the campaign unfold, visit the National Missing Persons website or find AFPNMPCC  on Facebook.

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