Providing hope for families waiting for their loved one to come home

For more than 30 years National Missing Persons Week (NMPW) has provided hope to those most affected by the disappearance of a loved one.

NMPW is an annual event, which raises awareness about the significant issues associated with missing persons, as well as helping to reduce the incidence and impact of missing persons in Australia. The initiative began in Townsville in 1988, as a way to raise awareness about the disappearance of local resident Tony Jones six years earlier. He had gone missing while hitch-hiking, and his family wanted to do something to remember him, as well as try to find out what had happened.

The Beginning

Mark Jones, Tony’s brother, said their family also wanted to give hope and support to other families waiting for a loved one to come home.

“In creating the first National Missing Persons Week in 1988, my family wanted to keep hopes of a breakthrough alive – not just for our family, but for all families with a missing loved one,” he said.

The inaugural week took place with a memorial service, where the Mayor of Townsville planted a tree in commemoration of Mr Jones.

From this small gathering, NMPW became an annual event to help families create public awareness about their loved-one’s disappearance, to try to find out what happened, even if the initial interest in the person’s disappearance had subsided over the years.

Mark Jones said the day is a source of great pride for he and his family.

“It’s a silver lining after all we’ve been through with Tony,” he said.

The Jones family founded NMPW in 1988 after the disappearance of 20-year-old Tony Jones
The Jones family founded NMPW in 1988 after the disappearance of 20-year-old Tony Jones

Some 30 years on, NMPW is proudly supported by Government, Law Enforcement, not-for-profit organisations, and community groups around Australia.  

The AFP, through the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre (NMPCC), has taken the lead in driving the national campaign. It regularly meets with families and coordinates an array of different initiatives, which all contribute to the success NMPW is now.

The traditional NMPW launch event has been a staple in the NMPCC calendar, with an impressive selection of venues, like Federation Square or the GABBA, and MCs, including celebrities Ida Buttrose and Mike Munro, engaged to encourage media and public interest.

AFP Commissioner Colvin opens the 2016 National Missing Persons Week launch event in Melbourne.
AFP Commissioner Colvin opens the 2016 National Missing Persons Week launch event in Melbourne.

Corporate and Community Support

The NMPCC works with corporate supporters such as the Outdoor Media Association (OMA) and McDonalds to leverage their networks and resources to raise awareness of missing persons Australia-wide.

Thanks to OMA and their member’s generous donation of $1.6 million dollars’ worth of nation-wide outdoor advertising on billboards, bus stops, and digital screens, the faces of missing people are everywhere during NMPW.

Outdoor media profiling of Sally Cheong in Melbourne - donated by OMA for NMPW 2016
Outdoor media profiling of Sally Cheong in Melbourne - donated by OMA for NMPW 2016

The OMA also supported the NMPCC to run an annual poster competition for tertiary design students from 2002 to 2017. Over the years, the poster competition initiative has resulted in an incredibly diverse range of posters and opportunities for winners to undertake work experience with the NMPCC team and competition partner the OMA. Winners of the competition had their design featured in a national campaign including television commercials, merchandise, outdoor advertisements, posters and catalogues.

Themes and messages focused on a range of at-risk groups and issues. These included those who are suffering from Dementia and Alzheimer’s when they disappear, at-risk youth, the impacts of mental health on missing persons, and culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Since 2016 McDonald’s has profiled missing persons on its 900 store screens Australia-wide, in the hope that someone will recognize the person in the photo, and tell someone what they know.

Chemist Warehouse also supported the NMPCC and NMPW from 2013 to 2017 by donating space in its monthly catalogue, reaching more than six million Australian households each month. Collectively, with the help of corporate supporters, the reach of NMPW, and the public’s awareness of missing persons, is increasing each year.

NMPW Poster Competition winners from previous years
NMPW Poster Competition winners from previous years
Chemist Warehouse catalogue artwork from NMPW 2017
Chemist Warehouse catalogue artwork from NMPW 2017

Today

To acknowledge the 30 year anniversary this year, the NMPCC has produced its first national digital campaign.

The aim of the campaign is to reach a broader audience such as those who have perhaps never thought about a missing person, or who believe the impact of a missing person will never affect them.

‘30 for 30’

Titled ’30 for 30,’ this year’s social media campaign profiles 30 faces of long term missing persons cases for the 30 years of NMPW. The campaign also highlights one feature profile from each State and Territory, to create eight stories about the missing person and their families. This approach helps to provide different perspectives on the issues relating to missing persons, highlighting there is more to every case than an individual ‘profile.’ The profiles selected and the stories created focus on the reasons why people go missing, including things like dementia, mental health and suicide; as well as the financial and other burdens, such as ongoing psychological care, that may fall on those who are left behind.

Hirut’s son Nazrawi (Naz) was last seen on 9 October 2016 in North Hobart, Tasmania. He was 20 years old at the time
Hirut’s son Nazrawi (Naz) was last seen on 9 October 2016 in North Hobart, Tasmania. He was 20 years old at the time

‘Hold onto Hope’ short film

‘Hold onto Hope’ was inspired by the ongoing impacts on families of having a loved one go missing. This includes dealing with the challenges of ambiguous loss, the need to hold onto hope, and for some people, the need to retain physical items associated with the missing person. The theme resonates with Eileen Fahey, whose son Anthony went missing in 2013.

“We are endeavouring to sell our house, however, this is upsetting because what if Anthony comes home and someone else is living here, how will he find us, how will he feel, what will he do?” she said.

“I also feel that if we sell I won’t have the memories of him being in the house, and I’m afraid I’ll forget the image of him sitting at the end of the bench and the sound of his voice. It’s all tied up in the house; how can I leave it?” she asks.


The NMPCC has worked with creative company ‘Common Ventures’ to create an emotive short film and television commercial for NMPW2018

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