Darkness

A dreadful thing happened today. Dreadful? Unimaginable? What word comes even close to encompassing what happened.

298 innocent people were killed by men fighting over borders. Oh sure they’ll argue it’s about so much more than that but I can’t shake my immediate reaction of “fucking men and their fucking weapons”.

They say it was a Russian separatist surface-to-air missile that brought down flight MH17 because Ukraine doesn’t have that military capability. I wonder how Russia talk its way out of this one.

They say there could be up to 100 people on that flight who were coming to Australia for the world’s largest AIDS conference. Scientists, doctors, activists working on life-changing, world-changing projects.

They say flights were banned over the region to 32,000 feet. MH17 was flying at 33,000. Who do you think makes that call when they’re aiming their missiles?

They say in the 28 Australians was a Grandpa bringing his three grand children home so they could go back to school while their mum and dad had a few extra days holiday.

I can’t stop thinking about that mother and that all she must want is to get to her babies.

Then I see pictures of people just walking over the crash site.

Sacred ground.

298 people dead but thousands of lives changed forever.

A great loss

Last night a helicopter went down at Australia’s Lake Eyre.

On board were three men from our national broadcaster, the ABC, who were – and are –  held in the highest esteem. Not just by fellow journalists but by viewers all over the country.

Paul Lockyer was a regional affairs reporter who time and time again told the human stories of this country. His coverage of the recent floods and horrific tragedy in Grantham was remarkable in that it was so very obvious each and every person was not just a story for him to file, he was always the vehicle for the rest of us to really understand the impact this land has on us.

Gary Ticehurst was the chief helicopter pilot for the ABC. That he is known by the audience is testament to his personality. He was so much more than a chopper pilot. During the tragic Sydney to Hobart yacht race a few years back he went from chopper pilot to hero in a matter of hours, saving lives and being a critical component of search and rescue.

John Bean was, by every account given today, a remarkable cameraman who played a crucial role not only in capturing the images to support the story but to put those people interviewed at ease. His photography that is being showcased on the ABC website of the Australian outback is nothing short of breathtaking.

I know there are more than 12 million people on the brink of dying from starvation in Africa tonight. I know the fighting in Afghanistan at the moment is some of the most brutal. I know these things and the gravity and horror they carry.

But three remarkable men died today too.

I adore the ABC. Its depth and breadth of reporting is unmatched in Australia. While every other news agency goes for the sound bite, the news grab, the sensation, ABC journalists keep their head, finding the human stories of tragedies, not letting politicians get away with avoiding the question and for recognising the news value in the everyday. I am of the firm belief that under the reign of the current managing director, Mark Scott, the broadcaster and its programming has gone from strength to strength. We are fiercely protective of our national broadcaster and the family within it.

And it is a family. You know at commercial networks just how cut-throat, ugly and bitchy it can be. Ruthless even. But if you are an ABC journo, producer, cameraman, sound guy it seems you are always an ABC journo, producer, cameraman and so on. It is irrefutable that if you were an ABC journo you were a real journo. It has always given the impression of being far less bullyboy and far more recognising remarkable talent and mentoring. I know that is ridiculously idealistic and that it must suffer the office politics of any large organisation but there you have it.

 

Leigh Sales, another remarkable journalist at the ABC somehow got through presenting tonight’s 7:30 Report. How she did so is testament to her professionalism. If today was not already tragic enough, it also brought the passing of Ian Carroll, a bastion of quality journalism and husband to the indomitable Geraldine Doogue.

 

For an insight into who these men where click here.

The scale of it all

This link will show you the number of blazes – as of last night – still raging in Victoria. Just to help with the idea of that – the entire British Isles almost fit into Victoria, our second smallest state. Imagine that image transposed onto the UK.

This afternoon the worst fears of the two biggest blazes joining up may become a reality.

Apparently the Australian cricket team have made a surprise visit to Kinglake and are there as I type. Onyaboys.

How to help

If you’re anything like me and are feeling utterly hopeless in terms of helping these traumatised communities and yet realise that getting in the car and driving 12 or so hours to get there to lend a hand is a tad impractical (or hoping on a plane and flying for 18 hours or so is a little expensive and unrealistic) these are the places to go.

The Red Cross

The Salvation Army

This being Australia, one of your dollars, be it American or from Mali, is probably worth about $50 of ours. You could throw us a nickel and its probably worth a twenty.

Things are happening here which always make you proud to be from your country. Normally Australia’s sporting lust makes my neck itch, but in these situations it sometimes steps up to the plate. To say it has exceeded my expectations is quite the understatement.

Last night’s day-nighter between Australia and New Zealand saw the players donate their match fee (about A$67,000). The one-day series’ major sponsor Commonwealth Bank committed $1 million upfront, as well as $100 for every run scored and $1000 for every six. Cricket Australia contributed $100,000, while the South Australian Cricket Association, despite hosting only three international matches this season, has committed to passing on all ticket sales proceeds from yesterday’s match as well as a cash donation of $25,000.*

The AFL – THE sport of Victoria – has moved its match scheduled from Darwin (an attempt to build new audiences for the sport) back to Melbourne. All proceeds from the anticipated 40,000- strong crowd would go to bushfire relief along with the estimated $250,000 the AFL would save by not travelling to Darwin. This match will raise a motza.

Sports stars have visited the communities but refused to be interviewed, saying this was about the people not the publicity.

Indeed.

*Over $6 million was raised at that match alone.