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Ten year Bali Bombing anniversary
October 12, 2012
6:04 am
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rath
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The Australian Prime Minister has expressed her deep regret and sorrow as candles have been lit at the Bali ceremony to remember the 202 people killed in the bombing attacks ten years ago today.

Dignitaries including Julia Gillard, the Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and John Howard are attending the service at Bali's cultural park in Jimbaran.

Several thousand people have attended the tightly guarded event in a park at the heart of a giant labyrinth carved deep into the sandstone tablelands that look down on Bali's beaches.

The service began just after dawn when survivors and family for the victims make their way through the labyrinth, passing portraits of loved ones adorning a stone wall.

Bali Governor I Made Pastika has welcomed the dignitaries and said the tragedy still hurts, but has strengthened the fight against terrorism.

Those killed in the attacks came from 22 countries, with Australia losing 88 souls.

GALLERY: Photos of services commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Bali Bombings

Service at Parliament House, Melbouren. (Photo: Angela Wylie)

The names of 22 Victorians who never came home from Bali ten years ago have been read aloud in a special service at State Parliament.

Family members and friends of those touched by the Bali tragedy have joined with current and former politicians to remember the lives lost.

The service heard prayers from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths; prayers for those who've lost loved ones and for those who survived the ordeal.

Floral tributes have also been laid in a Bali memorial garden outside Parliament House.

Speaking with Neil Mitchell, Former Prime Minister John Howard has described the 2002 Bali Bombings as a ‘character test’ for Australia.

LISTEN: Former Prime Minister John Howard speaks with Neil Mitchell

Mr Howard was Prime Minister at the time of the terrorist attacks which claimed the lives of 202, 88 of whom were Australians.

”It was something of a character test for Australia, and we passed that test with flying colours,” he said.

”We comforted the bereaved, we looked after the wounded, we reached out to the Indonesians and we brought to justice most of them who'd been responsible for the outrage.”

Mr Howard said it was the first anniversary of the bombings when he visited Bali that really brought home the emotion of the devastation.

John Howard tours the site a week after the bomb blasts. (Photo: Reuters/Dean Lewins)

”In a way, the emotion had settled in with people after a year and the feeling of grief and the intensity and the hostility towards those who'd done it was very deep,” he said.

Mr Howard first learnt of the news of the attack from his staffer while he was at Kirribilli house.

"I was shocked because you always hope, despite rationalising to the contrary, you always hope that it won't happen here,” he said.

”As the morning wore on and I got more and more news it was became obvious that it was going to be on a huge scale.”

He praised the actions of the RAAF and medical staff who flew 66 wounded people within 37 hours, and said the event became an international relations exercise between Australia and Indonesia, with the two countries experiencing tensions over East Timor’s independence just three years earlier .

"The important thing was to make sure that the Bali attack did not drive Indonesia and Australia further apart,” he said.

”At that time, our relations with Indonesia at a government level were tense.

”I was determined not to let that interfere with the cooperation needed.”

Mr Howard said he feared there would be repeat attacks in which Australians fell victim to terrorism, but that Australia’s intelligence cooperation with other regions was instrumental in ensuring that didn’t occur.

”Once this happened, I thought my god, this could happen again and again. it just presented us with a completely new world and a new challenge,” he said.

”The greatest weapon against the threat of terrorism is timely intelligence.

”Timely intelligence around the world has stopped major terrorist attacks, it hasn't stopped them all, but it's stopped a lot of them, and it will go on being the case years into the future.”

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