Where's William? Campaign

A speech calling on everyone to join the hunt for missing three-year-old William Tyrrell.

I remember in my days of being a tour director on coaches that we would find stories to tell about specific areas along the way. Being based in Walcha in the New England at that time, we visited Guyra a lot and one of those stories we told related to Stephen Walls. For four days and three nights in February 1960 Steven Walls was lost in the rugged New England Ranges near Guyra. He was a small four-year-old farm boy. He became immortalised forever as the "Little Boy Lost", made famous by the 1960 country singer John Ashcroft. It is such a close-knit community in the New England that I remember telling this story one day on the coach and finding that his sister, Julie, was travelling with us. She said that Stephen was a very shy boy. He had been raised on a farm with his father and mother and was very shy of people. Indeed, at the time he was lost he had probably met only about seven people in his life. Stephen was helping his dad to look after some sheep on the property and went to find a lamb that had been separated from the rest of the flock. He kept walking after it, and eventually got so far away from his father that he could not see him anymore. As an intelligent, bright young country lad, he knew that if he got lost the best thing to do was to follow the fence back to the farmhouse. He also knew how to shelter himself and to find some water. Unfortunately for Stephen and for his mum and dad, he was heading in the wrong direction—he was going further away from the homestead. He walked and walked. When he heard things that scared him, he hid from them. In those days the community was small, but they mobilised behind this family. Men and women were called out of pubs and their homes. They even stopped on the New England Highway as they drove by to help in the search. One can imagine how some of those blokes coming out of the pub to find this little lost boy were so loud and scary. In all, 5,000 people and seven aircraft searched for Stephen Walls. Most importantly, an Aboriginal tracker named William Stanley realised while tracking Stephen that he was going further away from the noise and that he was hiding from the searchers. Eventually, and luckily for him and his family, he was found. It is important to know that although the song Johnny Ashcroft wrote about the incident went on to become a top 40 seller because of the community spirit that had emerged, he withdrew it shortly afterwards when Sydney school boy Graeme Thorne became Australia's first kidnap victim and was later found murdered. It is important to tell the story again because today we heard in this place about William Tyrrell, who was only three years old when he disappeared on 12 September last year. The NSW Police Force still believes that he was abducted and that he might still be alive. Today I met William's mother and I heard speeches by the Deputy Premier and the member for Strathfield. It was the most heart-wrenching experience to hear those speeches, both in this place and in the Jubilee Room. As a young mother of a little three-year-old boy, I remember that when I told the story of Stephen Walls the emotion would catch in my throat. I was imagining the fear and terror of a mother who had lost her boy for four days. I could not imagine losing my boy for four seconds. I hope that the community continues to rally around mothers in situations like this, just as they have in the past. We saw that this weekend, with thousands of people walking as part of the Where's William? campaign. Not only that, I read online that 300 calls had been received by the police in their search to find William. The Where's William? campaign was launched to provide the community with more information about little William Tyrrell's disappearance with the aim of finding him and bringing him home to his family, where he belongs. We may not stop cars on the road in our attempt to find people, but on the information superhighway, on Facebook and the internet, there is perhaps a chance that someone out there knows something that can help us to find this little boy. I urge all people in the community to help find William but, most importantly, to keep hoping. As my own little boy is now 15 years old and I have spent so many years of joy with him, my heart goes out to the Tyrrells and I hope that their search comes to a good conclusion soon.

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