Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove has added a wreath to a makeshift MH17 shrine at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, telling of the gratitude the loved ones of Australia’s victims felt for the respect now being afforded to the victims.
Sir Peter travelled to Eindhoven in The Netherlands to take part in the ramp ceremony on Wednesday for the first 40 bodies recovered from rebel-held eastern Ukraine, where the Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down just over a week ago.
He said another 74 victims had arrived in The Netherlands on Thursday, and more were expected on Friday.
Looking around at the flowers and notes at the shrine, Sir Peter said: “It all says that we join with the international community in our great sorrow that this event that started with a flight from Schiphol has bought about a modern tragedy.”
Sir Peter said he had begun telephoning the families and loved ones of each of the 38 Australian residents killed in the tragedy, passing on his impressions of the ramp ceremony along with his condolences.
He said he told the families “what a beautifully conducted, dignified and affectionate ceremony” it had been, adding that thousands of people had lined the route the hearses took from Eindhoven, paying their own respects.
“It didn’t matter who they were, the Dutch will mourn them along with everyone else,” he said.
Sir Peter said he’d conveyed the gratitude of Australian families touched by the tragedy to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
“One of the points that the loved ones in Australia invariably wanted me to convey was their great gratitude to the Dutch authorities, to the people of The Netherlands, for the way they have afforded those returning bodies the respect the victims were denied in the taking of their lives.”
The long task of victim identification has begun in Holland, while retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston is still in Kiev and other Australians are now at the crash site.
“I’ve got to continue my process now of calling those loved ones. They’ve all been tremendous on the telephone, very brave, receiving great support, but they are devastated.”