Julie Bishop: "A year on, we continue to grieve for those aboard MH17."

A year on from the MH17 tragedy, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop reflects on the Australians lost – and those left behind.

Last Friday, our nation remembered all those who died aboard Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 on 17 July 2014. This first anniversary was a poignant reminder of the senseless loss of 298 innocent lives.

I remember only too well my horror and disbelief when I was told in the early hours of 18 July last year that a Malaysia Airlines plane had come down over eastern Ukraine, that there were no survivors among the passengers and crew and that the wreckage had landed in what was essentially a war zone.

Our immediate priority was to ensure any Australian victims were located, treated with dignity and respect, and returned home to their loved ones. This required immediate access to the crash site, which was located in the midst of fierce fighting between Ukrainian armed forces and Russian-backed armed separatists. For that to happen, we needed to gain the support of the international community.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

I made calls to counterpart ministers in affected countries: Ukraine, the Netherlands, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom and Belgium to garner support. Over three days in New York, the Australian delegation worked tirelessly to build support for a resolution seeking access to the site by international investigators. We were determined to bring our people home.

Our efforts resulted in a clear and unequivocal response by the United Nations Security Council demanding unfettered access to the crash site, an independent, impartial international investigation and accountability for the perpetrators of this crime.

Officials and staff at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade worked around the clock during this period. Immediately upon hearing the news, a 24-hour crisis centre was established. An MH17 task force was created to lead policy coordination, briefing and liaison. Fifty-six Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade staff were deployed to Ukraine and 18 to the Netherlands, as part of a specially trained emergency response team.

The anniversary of MH17.

The work of the dedicated consular case officers assigned to each MH17 family, perhaps the most difficult of all assignments, deserves the highest praise.

Having spoken to the families of the victims, I know how challenging and difficult this work must have been.

The most heartbreaking aspect of such a tragedy is the pain and suffering of the loved ones of those killed – an anguish no one should have to endure.

In speaking to many of the Australian families of the men, women and children who had died; attending ceremonies at Eindhoven Airport for the arrival to The Netherlands of the remains of the first of the victims who were transported from Ukraine on a Dutch airforce plane and an Australian airforce C17; and, the memorial service in Perth for the three Maslin children and their grandfather, I can state that words can never capture the depth of their grief.

The Maslin children were among the Australian lives lost in the disaster.

It is important for the Security Council to take clear and decisive action against those responsible for the downing of MH17 and to send a clear message to the growing number of non-State actors with the ability to target civilian aircraft that such attacks will not be tolerated.

Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine, the countries undertaking the independent criminal investigation into the downing of MH17, are consulting closely with all members of the Security Council to seek their support to establish an independent criminal tribunal to hold to account those responsible for the downing of MH17.

A year on we continue to grieve for those aboard that fateful flight. We will continue to do all we can to make sure that the perpetrators are held to account and that never again will a commercial aeroplane, in commercial airspace, be shot from the skies.

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