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A National Day Of Mourning And Reflection

The Prime Minister, John Howard, has designated Sunday January 16 as a National Day of Mourning and Reflection for the victims of the earthquakes and tsunamis that devastated areas of South and South East Asia on December 26.

There is no precedent for a day of mourning in Australia, although it is common in many other countries.

The statement released by Howard is careful to allow for different faiths to mark the occasion on their normal days of prayer, as well as catering for the non-religious “who choose to observe this day of mourning in other ways”.

The introduction of the concept of a day of mourning is in keeping with a general trend by the Howard government to emphasise religious and moral values underpinning its political positions.

This is the text of a media release from the Prime Minister, John Howard.


I invite all Australians to observe, in their own chosen ways, Sunday 16 January 2005 as a National Day of Mourning and Reflection for the victims of the devastating earthquakes and resulting tsunamis in South and South East Asia on 26 December 2004.

All Australians are overwhelmed by the appalling tragedy that has claimed so many lives, not only of Australians but the citizens of our close neighbours and of many other nations.

Many Australians will attend religious services on this day and I encourage leaders of all denominations and faiths to include a reference to this tragic event and to those left bereaved and otherwise affected by this terrible natural disaster.

Respecting the fact that Sunday is not a day of religious observance for all faiths in this country, some may prefer to mark this occasion on their normal day of prayer.

For those Australians who choose to observe this day of mourning in other ways, activities already planned for Sunday should go ahead perhaps with the inclusion of a suitable dedication or act of remembrance.

On this day I ask that Australians observe a minute’s silence at 11.59 am Australian Eastern Daylight Time, marking the time at which the devastating earthquake which preceded the tsunamis struck. I am sure that television and radio services will mark this moment of silence in an appropriate way.

As a simple tribute to those who have died or who are injured or missing I encourage the wearing of a piece of wattle or similar native flora during the day as a quiet personal gesture of remembrance and reflection.

On Sunday 16 January the Australian National Flag will be flown all day at half-mast on all Commonwealth buildings throughout Australia and at our missions overseas. I encourage others to follow suit.

We are saddened beyond words by the loss of so many lives, particularly young ones. Our hearts and our condolences go out to Australians and those of other nations left grieving and especially those who wait for confirmation of news about their loved ones.

Let us all in our chosen ways find time on Sunday 16 January to mourn the tragic loss of so many and offer our prayers and hope for those still missing or recovering from this event.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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