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National Missing Persons Week, held in the first week of August, raises awareness of the significant issues associated with missing people, and assists in reducing the incidence and impact of missing persons in Australia. This year, the theme is 'Follow Your Instincts', highlighting that you don't have to wait 24 hours before reporting someone as missing.
The week is coordinated by the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre. In NSW, the Department of Justice has a dedicated unit, Families and Friends of Missing Persons Unit (FFMPU) within Victims Services, which participates in, and coordinates events. The Unit provides support for families throughout the week, and at events.
The Families and Friends of Missing Persons Unit has supported more than 2,500 individuals and families across the country and overseas since it began operating 15 years ago. It is the only agency in Australia to provide specialist counselling and support for those left behind when someone goes missing.
Since 2010, more than 50 support group meetings have been held across NSW bringing family members and friends together to reduce feelings of distress and isolation.
More than 35,000 people are reported missing in Australia each year. In NSW the figure is approximately 12, 500.
The majority of missing people return or are located within a short space of time, however, a small percentage, one to two per cent, remain missing. In NSW there are approximately 650 long-term missing people; that is, people who have been missing for more than six months. Research indicates that for every person who goes missing, on average 12 people are affected.
Young people, between the ages of 14 and 18 years account for approximately 20,000 of the 35,000 reported missing. People who are experiencing mental health difficulties are at increased risk of going missing.
Events raise awareness of missing people, their families and the support available, through media coverage, direct contact with families, and providing information to service providers.
The National Missing Persons' Coordination Centre officially launches the week with an event on Monday 3 August in Sydney. NSW Police MPU, with information from Local Area Commands, identifies and profiles a number of missing people throughout the week. Many of the families attending this event have ongoing contact with FFMPU.