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'How can I leave? How will he find us?'

9News.com.au logo 9News.com.au 5/08/2018 Rebecca Masters
a person posing for the camera: Anthony Fahey has been missing since 2013. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Anthony Fahey has been missing since 2013.

Eileen Fahey is trying to sell her house, but she’s torn. What if her son, Anthony, who went missing in 2013, comes home and finds a different family living there?

"How will he find us, how will he feel, what will he do?" Ms Fahey said.

"I also worry that, if we sell, I won’t have the memories of him being in the house. I’m afraid that I’ll forget the image of him sitting at the end of the bench and the sound of his voice. It’s all tied up in the house – how can I leave it?"

Each year in Australia, 38,000 people are reported missing. That’s one person every 12 minutes who simply disappears.

Most of them are found alive and well within days but a small percentage remain missing more than three months later.

That’s when their file lands on Trish Halligan’s desk.

Ms Halligan is in the hope business – hope, no matter how small, that her team will be able to reunite thousands of missing people with their families.

a woman sitting at a desk in front of a computer: Trish Halligan is the team leader of the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre. Picture: Supplied © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Trish Halligan is the team leader of the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre. Picture: Supplied

"Each family member reaches different stages, acceptance and hope and devastation all at different times," Ms Halligan told 9news.com.au.

"There is the emotional impact, dealing with the fact that a loved one is missing, but also, how they cope with their day-to-day lives and then also dealing with the missing person’s estate."

As the team leader of the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre (NMPCC), Ms Halligan helps a missing person's family navigate the extraordinary situation they find themselves in. The team also educates the public about the challenges of having a loved one go missing.

A missing person can't pay their rent or their phone bill. They don’t collect their mail or feed their pets. Those left behind often find themselves tasked with keeping the missing person’s life going in the hope they’ll return.

The founder of MPAN (Missing Persons Advocacy Network), Loren O’Keeffe has previously described the difficulty she faced getting the Melbourne Cricket Club to suspend her brother’s membership and stop sending renewal notices and late fees after he went missing in July 2011.

It wasn’t until Daniel O’Keeffe's body was found almost five years later that the club apologised and reimbursed fees paid while he was missing.

While the world may stand still for a missing person’s loved ones, it keeps turning for everyone else.

a person looking at the camera: The short film, created by Sydney-based creative firm Common Ventures, was commissioned by the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre, for the 30th anniversary of National Missing Persons Week. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd The short film, created by Sydney-based creative firm Common Ventures, was commissioned by the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre, for the 30th anniversary of National Missing Persons Week.

Holding onto hope

"The longer it goes on, the harder it is to keep people engaged, to keep people interested in the case," Ms Halligan said.

"We hold out hope that we’ll get even a small amount of information … that someone will come forward."

And it’s not false hope. Sometimes, long-term missing persons are found.

A man who went missing in March 2015 was found in August of the following year, sleeping rough in Laurienton, south of Port Macquarie in New South Wales. Members of the public had recognised him in advertisements during National Missing Persons Week 2016 and called Crime Stoppers.

He has since been reunited with his loved ones and is receiving care.

a close up of a street: null © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd null

The burden of holding onto physical ties - holding onto hope of a reunion - is the concept behind a short film, created by Sydney-based creative firm Common Ventures, commissioned by NMPCC for National Missing Persons Week 2018.

In the film, a young girl holding a gift wrapped in red, glittery paper, apparently on the way to a birthday party, watches her father bent under the bonnet of their broken-down car. She complains to her father about being late again because they have "the crappiest car in the whole school". He gently explains to her that they could buy a new car, but what if they drove past her missing sister and she didn’t recognise them?

"That’s why we drive this thing. So that one day she’ll see us. She'll recognise this car and she’ll know it's us," the father says.

"Maddie will come home because of this car."

a group of people posing for the camera: Some of the long-term missing persons being sought by the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre. Picture: Supplied © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Some of the long-term missing persons being sought by the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre. Picture: Supplied

To mark the 30th anniversary of National Missing Persons Week, the NMPCC has released 30 profiles of long-term missing persons.

Everyday Aussies are the eyes and ears of the police working to find the thousands of people who go missing every year. Look at the photos, read the stories, share the video.

Going missing is not a crime. If you have been reported missing, you can let police know you are safe and well. Your privacy will be protected.

a blurry photo of a man: Today marks the start of the 30th National Missing Persons Week, aimed at helping find loved ones who are lost. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Today marks the start of the 30th National Missing Persons Week, aimed at helping find loved ones who are lost. If you have concerns about the safety and welfare of a person you do not have to wait 24 hours to report them missing. The sooner police know a person is missing, the sooner they can begin searching.

National Missing Persons Week is held in the first week of August every year.

If you have information about a missing person contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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