Thousands of people have held a memorial in Indonesia’s Aceh province, the epicentre of the Indian Ocean tsunami, as the world prepares to mark a decade since a disaster that took 220,000 lives and laid waste to coasts in 14 countries.
On December 26, 2004 a 9.3-magnitude earthquake off Indonesia’s western coast sparked a series of towering waves that wrought destruction across countries as far apart as Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Somalia.
Among the victims were thousands of foreign holidaymakers enjoying Christmas on the region’s sun-kissed beaches, striking tragedy into homes around the world.
Muslim clerics, tsunami survivors and rescue workers led around 7000 mourners gathered at Banda Aceh’s black-domed Baiturrahman Grand Mosque for memorial prayers late on Thursday.
Aceh governor Zaini Abdullah thanked Indonesians and the international community in his address at the mosque, one of the few buildings which withstood the wrath of the massive earthquake and ensuing waves which left 170,000 people in the country dead or missing.
“The tsunami had caused deep sorrow to Aceh residents from having lost their loved ones,” he said.
“Sympathy from Indonesians and the international community has helped (Aceh) to recover,” he added.
He also called on residents not to “dwell in our grief, so that we could rise from adversity and achieve a better Aceh”.
In Meulaboh, a fishing town considered to be the ground zero of the tsunami — where 35 metre-high waves flattened almost everything — Indonesian flags were flown at half-mast as small groups of residents held night prayers at mosques.
The main memorials were planned for Friday morning, starting in Aceh which was hit first by the waves, then moving to Thailand where candlelit ceremonies are expected in the resort hubs of Phuket and Khao Lak.
Many of the tsunami’s victims died in dark, churning waters laden with uprooted trees, boats, cars and eviscerated beach bungalows, as the waves surged miles inland and then retreated, sucking many more into the sea.
The world poured money and expertise into the relief and reconstruction, with more than $US13.5 billion collected in the months after the disaster.
Almost $US7 billion in aid went into rebuilding more than 140,000 houses across Aceh, thousands of kilometres of roads, and new schools and hospitals.
The vast majority of Indonesia’s 170,000 victims perished in the province, among them tens of thousands of children.
But the disaster also ended a decades-long separatist conflict, with a peace deal between rebels and Jakarta struck less than a year later.
It also prompted the establishment of a pan-ocean tsunami warning system, made up of sea gauges and buoys, while individual countries have invested heavily in disaster preparedness.
Buddhist and Christians in Aceh province also remembered victims 10 years after the tsunami.
Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race
Thousands of people are expected to send off yachts for the 70th consecutive year on Sydney’s harbour foreshore.
For a list of best vantage points to see the start of the annual race, click here.
The race will start at 1pm. Follow the latest developments here, with updates from our embedded reporter Nick Vindin.
Boxing Day sales
Keen to nab yourself a bargain? If you’re in for some retail therapy, this is the day for the post-Christmas shopping frenzy.
Retailers are expecting to take in more than $16 billion over the next three weeks, including $2 billion on Boxing Day alone.
Aussie captain Steve Smith. (AAP)
Boxing Day Test
From the first ever Test match in 1950 until now, cricket fans know there’s no better way to enjoy a summer’s day after the exhaustion of Christmas than watching one of Australia’s most popular sporting events.
This year’s test will see Australia take on India at the spiritual home of Australian cricket, the MCG from December 26-30.
Catch the latest flicks on the big screen
Who doesn’t love going to the pictures on Boxing Day?
From Peter Jackson’s third and final instalment of The Hobbit, Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner, a modern day retelling of Annie or the comedy-drama starring Bill Murray, there’s bound to a genre for every cinephile young and old. Check your local cinema for session times.
Do nothing … or as little as possible
If you’re still recovering from your food coma as a result of your epic feasting, or nursing a hangover from all the merriment (if that’s you, check out these hangover cures) here’s a list of things you can do for free or with minimal effort:
1. Go to the beach, or do something outdoorsy
While the rest of the world (well, Northern hemisphere really) is in the midst of a cold and wintry (white) Christmas, Aussies are lucky the holiday season coincides with summer. So go on, head outside and get some vitamin D. Your endorphins will love you for it.
2. ‘Tis the season to be watching
Binge on your favourite shows, docos or podcasts from the comfort of your couch.
People say we’re going through a “golden age for television” or if you’re wondering why your colleagues are raving about Sarah Koenig’s Serial, there’s A LOT of quality and “edutaining” (yes, educational and entertaining) content to catch up on from 2014.
Not to mention SBS On Demand has 400 free movies which you can stream anytime here. Need more convincing? Here’s twelve reasons why children should watch films at Christmas.
3. Kick back and get through your #longreads
If all else fails, there’s nothing more relaxing than unwinding with your favourite beverage (iced tea anyone?), curled up in that comfy spot, engrossed in a really good book or article.
Start your summer reading today with a look back at the best stories from SBS or some of these recommendations:
Have you got a brilliant suggestion? Tell us what you’re up to in the comments below.
THE 26 AUSTRALIANS LOST IN THE 2004 INDIAN OCEAN TSUNAMI:
Melina Heppell, six months old, swept from her dad Peter’s arms on Patong Beach, Thailand
2. Queensland man Philip Neame, 54, died at Patong Beach
3. Paul Giardina, 16, became separated from his Melbourne parents Joe and Ivana at the Seaview Hotel, Patong Beach
4. Three year old girl from NSW, Sascha Srikaow
5. Barry Anstee, 52, of Brisbane, who was only hours into a holiday with his wife Susan, who survived
6. Permanent resident of WA, Catherina van Duren, 81, on her annual holiday to Phuket
7. Brian Clayton, 58 from Brisbane. The construction industry worker was holidaying in Phuket with wife Patsy, who was able to scamble to safety
8. Craig Baxter, 37, a New Zealand-born Queensland resident, died while saving his Thai wife, Maliwan, 28, knowing she couldn’t swim
9. Jim Sparrow, 68, of Perth. Patong
10. Melbourne AFL player Troy Broadbridge, 24, was swept away from his new wife Trisha while honeymooning on Phi Phi island
11. Dinah Fryer, 50, of Adelaide. Was on her first overseas trip in Phuket with her husband of 18 years, Chris, and their teenage daughters Louise and Michelle
12. Yumi Kloot, 32, Japanese national of the Gold Coast, was holidaying with her Australian husband Damien on Phi Phi Island
13. Moi Vogel, 32, was on her honeymoon and had called home on Christmas Day to tell family she was pregnant
14. Her husband Christian Nott, 34, a freelance photographer of Sydney. Both died in Khao Lok
15. South African born Nikola Liebowitz, 30, was holidaying in Phi Phi island and then planned to settle in Sydney
16. Her boyfriend, South African born Avadya Berman, 31
17. Queenslander John Dimmock, 49, who operated a business called Aussie Bungalows north of Khao Lak
18. Mr Dimmock’s Thai born wife Pranom Dimmock
19. Susan Oliver, 30, from regional NSW, who had just finished a stint as a young ambassador in Vietnam and was holidaying on Phi Phi Island on her way home to Australia
20. North Queensland school teacher Kym Walsh, 39, separated from her husband Ian, who survived, at a resort near Phuket
21. Sydney woman Katherine Glinsky, 35, the aunt of three-year-old Sascha Srikaow, both were walking on the beach at Phi Phi
22. Caroline Rosso, 25, of Brisbane, an adviser to former Queensland minister Tony McGrady, was killed within 30 minutes of her arrival at the popular Thai resort of Khao Lak
23. The last Australian victim was officially identified in Phuket on Friday 19 August, 2005. The man was a 50-year-old Australian citizen living in Phuket
24. Adelaide man Sujeewa Kamalasuriya, 39, a dual citizen of Sri Lanka was snorkelling with friend and business partner Sarah Roberts, 31, when disaster struck.
25. NSW woman Barathy Balasingham, a 30-year-old female permanent resident
26. Magdalene Balachandra, 61, of Canberra, in a mini-van that was struck by a wave. She was in Sri Lanka with her husband Bernard and daughter Asha for a family reunion.
Source: AAP archives, takes into account the DFAT tally as well as confirmations by relatives.
Robyn Turner has suffered three years of nightmares since the savage murder of her brother, whose body was found stuffed in a cupboard in a Sydney unit block.
Rodney Scarman, 52, was savagely beaten to death and found inside an electrical cupboard in Waterloo about 4.30am on Boxing Day, 2011.
The murder resulted from a drug transaction gone wrong, police say.
Now, the family have again appealed for information about his death.
“It’s torturing to my mind, emotionally it’s agonising,” an emotional Ms Turner told reporters on Friday.
“I hope one day we have some closure to move on.”
An autopsy showed he had suffered significant injuries to most of his body.
Mr Scarman had been dumped in a communal area of the Walker Street unit block.
He was last seen a few hours earlier in an agitated state on nearby streets.
“Christmas isn’t the same for us anymore,” Ms Turner said in Sydney as her children Kaly and Beau stood by for support.
She held Mr Scarman’s funeral card while remembering her gentle, quiet and artistic brother.
“It’s difficult to sleep, nightmares, wondering who’s out there and if they might do this somebody else,” she said.
“I am pleading with people to look into their conscience and have the courage to come forward.”
Superintendent Luke Freudentstein said fear or misguided loyalty was holding people back from giving information.
Police were confident people in the Redfern community had knowledge of what happened that night.
“I’m pleading for the sake of the family…and for justice,” he said.
“In an undignified manner he was stuffed in a cupboard.
“Imagine if it was your family.”
It’s believed the attack was not targeted, he said, but related to a drug transaction gone wrong.
Police will accompany the Turner family while they letterbox drop flyers with their plea on Friday.
Katrina Dawson has been remembered for her enormous intellect and achievement, but most of all her devotion to family.
More than 1000 people farewelled the 38-year-old Sydney siege victim at a memorial service at the University of Sydney on Tuesday.
“My mummy is in heaven and heaven is in my heart, so mummy will always be with me,” her son Ollie’s words of mourning were relayed to those gathered.
“I love you mummy.
“I am sad that you died.”
A slide show played photos of Ms Dawson with her family and friends while a video showed her dancing to Pharrell’s Happy with the children.
Sasha, 4, Ollie, 6, and Chloe, 8, chose three songs for the service, intended as a celebration of Ms Dawson’s life.
“Please don’t forget her,” mother Jane said.
Husband Paul Smith said that even though she wasn’t religious, he could still feel her presence.
“There may not be a God or heaven, but you are still here with us,” he said.
Always a high achiever, Ms Dawson topped the state in the HSC with a 100 TER, won numerous scholarships and excelled as a barrister.
But it was her love of others that was remembered most in the hall awash with aqua lights and outfits, Ms Dawson’s favourite colour.
“(She) made me want to be a wife and mother,” said pregnant friend Julie Taylor, who was also a hostage in the 16-hour Lindt Cafe siege last week.
Tears flowed while Ms Taylor read a poem from Ms Dawson to her husband on their wedding day.
“I want to laugh with your joy, to cry with your tears, to ache with your pain, and mostly just to be there for you and there with you, living our lives together,” Ms Dawson wrote.
The mother-of-three enjoyed baking cakes, dressing up for parties and social sports.
She was fluent in French, a qualified ski instructor and Pictionary master.
In a holiday prank, Ms Dawson’s language skills got her brother Sandy in trouble when he told an Italian woman at the Post Office she had beautiful breasts, instead of asking for stamps.
Former NSW Governor Quentin Bryce said Ms Dawson’s life was inspiring.
“I observed her sensitive to those affected by disadvantage,” Dame Quentin said of their time together in the Women’s College at the university.
Dame Quentin is the founding member of the Katrina Dawson Foundation, aimed at helping educate women.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his wife Margaret attended the service along with siege survivor John O’Brien.