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Large-scale mural to keep Gordana Kotevski’s memory alive

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Sadly, the story of Gordana Kotevski is a part of Newcastle folklore.

The vivacious 16-year-old who went shopping with her friends at Charlestown Square almost three decades ago… and never returned home.

It’s believed the teen was snatched off the street and bundled into a vehicle.

And, despite numerous witnesses to the abduction, what exactly happened to Gordana – and her subsequent whereabouts – has baffled everyone since.

Gordana Kotevski is forever in the hearts of her family.

NSW Police reopened the case in 2019, establishing Strikeforce Arapaima which is still operational, without success.

Even after her image was the face representing Australia on Missing International Children’s Day in 2022, the same day a $1 million reward was announced, her disappearance continues to raise more questions than answers.

But, throughout it all, her brave family refuses to let her memory die.

In fact, her loving aunt Julie Talevski is now working with Jacinta Fintan from The Wall Station, Jane Goldsmith from NBN and The Missed Foundation to keep her niece in the public eye by raising funds for Gordana’s Mural.

However, they need at least $20,000 to make the project a reality.

And, it’s hoped the large-scale painting will be unveiled on 24 November… marking the 30th anniversary of her disappearance.

“There’s not a day where we don’t think of Gordana,” Ms Talevski.

“She was a bright, happy, loving child who adored her parents (Peggy and Branko), siblings (Carolina and Damien), grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles.

“Gordana also loved to dance, joining the Newcastle Stiv Naumov group in her early teens and spending hours each week practicing her craft.

“She was a popular student at high school, with many friends and well-liked by her teachers and peers, too.

if the perpetrators are still around and driving up and down streets around Charlestown, what better way than having a constant reminder of what they’ve done.

Julie Talevski

“For me personally, I’m constantly reminded of her because we have her photos in our dining room.

“Just by habit, I walk in there and see her beautiful face every day – and I say hello.

“So, Gordana’s never far from my mind.

“It’s the same for the rest of the family.

“Although Peggy, my sister-in-law and Gordana’s mum, moved to Wollongong a few years ago.

“She tried to stay in Newcastle for as long as she could.

“But, the house held so many memories… I think she felt by moving away, it would be easier to move on.

“Unfortunately, you don’t get over things like that.

“Especially, when your excited teenage daughter goes shopping for an outfit for her first ‘live’ concert (Boyz II Men) and never returns.”

While the family has constantly campaigned to keep Gordana’s case open, and in the spotlight, Ms Talevski believes Gordana’s Mural will serve several purposes.

“Every day we find as many reasons as we can to remember her,” she said.

“We take every opportunity to talk about her and tell her story… a story of so much potential, of love, of loss and a life cut short.

“For those of us who love her, all that is left are the photographs scattered among family and friends.

“Those pictures bring her back to life, albeit for a little while.

“Our hope is that the mural will allow us to imagine what could have been.

“When she left us, a part of us went missing, too.

“So, as long as Gordana is remembered, she will always be here with us.

“And, you know, if the perpetrators are still around and driving up and down streets around Charlestown, what better way than having a constant reminder of what they’ve done.”

The inspiration for Gordana’s Mural surfaced late last year, by chance, according to Ms Talevski.

It’s gathered plenty of momentum since then, too.

“In November, her 29th anniversary, my son was working in town in Bolton Street and he saw some graffiti that had Gordana’s name on it and a heart,” she told the Newcastle Weekly.

“Then he walked around the corner and there was another one, followed by another.

“There were all these messages as well, like ‘bring her home’ and ‘Gordana deserves justice’.

“So, he rang me and told me about it.

“We don’t know who it was or who did it?

“I took my grandkids to have a look that weekend.

“And, sure enough, there were images everywhere; it was very moving.

“I then informed Detective Sergeant Kristi Faber, who was involved in the case but now retired.

“She said: ‘oh, that’s interesting. I don’t condone graffiti but it’s a beautiful gesture’.

“Kristi also did an interview with ABC Newcastle, where Gordana’s anniversary was brought up, and she mentioned the images around the city.

“The announcer agreed it was a lovely act from someone in the community.

“I then ran it by Jacinta, who thought it was a fantastic idea.

“We could turn grief into art and ensure that Gordana is never forgotten.

“After umming and ahhing, and not knowing how to start, I put a call out on a local Facebook page, The Newcastle Echo, and received wonderful responses.

“Jacinta’s been great, too.

“We spent a few hours running around Charlestown recently, looking at some possible locations.”

Now, they not only need $20,000, but also a wall.

“Hopefully, that won’t be too hard to find,” Ms Talevski said.

“However, we must raise the money first.

“The amount may change when the project costing is finalised.

“However, the funds collected will be used to engage a talented, local artist to design and paint the mural, as well as pay for materials and any insurances that may be required during the work.

“Any money left over will go to The Missed Foundation (formerly the Missing Persons Advocacy Network MPAN), a registered Australian charity, which has very kindly agreed to help make this project happen.

“They’ll use it to provide vital resources, raise awareness and advocate for families affected by ‘missingness’.

“It’s run by the most amazing lady called Lauren O’Keefe.

“I met her in 2018 and she’s the one who inspired me to start doing things.

“We began with a sticker campaign and then we got the billboard happening at McDonald Jones Stadium, which occurs every year at no cost to the family.

“The Missed Foundation has also done murals for families in Melbourne, so we thought ‘why can’t we do that right here?’

“Maybe, it could be the first of many.

“Remember a picture tells a story, so we’re keen to get the right artist to not only portray that story but bring Gordana to life on the mural, that tells a little bit about her as well.

“We come from a Macedonian community, so it would be nice to combine that (like her folk dancing) with her Australian culture.”

Financial contributions for Gordana’s Mural are now open, with more than $7,500 already raised.

“That’s just within a week, so that’s really lovely,” Ms Talevski said.

“We’ve got some fabulous people in our community.

“But, we’d love more people to jump on board, especially businesses.

“We know it’s really, really tough for everyone at the moment… the cost of living is going through the roof.

“However, it everyone puts in a couple of dollars – donations over $2 are tax deductible – it all adds up.

“Large or small, we’re grateful for anything.

“What we’d love to see for Gordana at the end of the day is justice… seeing the perpetrators caught and dealt with by the law.

“But, in the meantime, we want people to know she’s never gone from our hearts.”

The fundraising page can be found at https://gordanasmural.raiselysite.com/

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