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Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Hunter to shine a light on missing persons

More than 38,000 people go missing nationwide each year but an initiative is hoping to bring them home by encouraging Aussies to Leave A Light On.

The Leave A Light On campaign, which will take place on Wednesday 21 October, is asking Australians to light a candle or leave a porch light on overnight, in memory of missing persons.

This year, the campaign will include the illumination of a number of iconic Newcastle landmarks, including Fort Scratchley, Town Hall and the Civic Theatre.

Leave a Light on Newcastle organiser Julie Talevski says she is hoping homes and businesses in the Hunter will follow suit and raise more awareness for missing Australians.

As an aunt of a missing person, Julie knows all too well the need for continued awareness.

“Too quickly a case is forgotten and, over time, becomes a ‘cold case’,” she said.

“It takes time and effort to push for resources to re-open cases.

“This can only be achieved by keeping the stories alive and hoping that someone comes forward with that critical piece of the puzzle.”

This year is the 26th anniversary of Gordana Kotevski’s disappearance, who went missing while walking from Charlestown Square Shopping Centre to her aunt’s home on the same road.

Wednesday evening’s event is a chance for the community to stand in solidarity with families like the Kotevskis.

“Leave A Light On was launched in South Australia in 2015 by Suzie Ratcliffe whose sister Joanne, along with another little girl Kirste Gordon, was kidnapped from Adelaide Oval in 1973,” Julie said. 

“After Joanne’s disappearance, her parents would always leave the front porch light on in the hope that if she came home, she would know that her family were waiting for her.

“Suzie and I became friends a couple of years ago through the common thread of missing a loved family member and finding ways of keeping their stories alive and in the public arena.

“Suzie is passionate about helping families.”

The Kotevski family are offering their full support to the annual campaign which Julie says is a simple act that everyone can participate in.

“It may not seem like much, but it means the world to the families of missing persons,” she said.

“As a case becomes older, with no new information, missing persons are quite often forgotten. 

“Leave A Light On asks people across Australia, as a beacon of hope for their families, so they know their missing loved ones will never be forgotten.”

Leave A Light On aims to light up as many premises as possible across Australia, drawing attention to the issue of missing persons.

“Perhaps we might even help bring some of these missing people home,” Julie said.

Local people and businesses that are participating on Wednesday night are being encouraged to share their images on social media using the hashtags #LeaveALightOn, #BringThemHome, and #MissingPersons.