10 years since Childers backpacker hostel fire

10 years since Childers backpacker hostel fire

The small rural town of Childers is the closest town to where I live at Woodgate Beach (a tiny village that I have lived in for about 3 years). It is a gorgeous town with beautiful old tin and timber Queenslander buildings and wide streets lined with leopard trees. It’s like stepping back in time.

The town is surrounded by rolling hills and fertile land with rich red volcanic soils. The farms produce sugar cane, avocado, macadamia and many other fruits and vegetables. Every year backpackers come from around the world to pick the produce and are very much appreciated by the locals.

Ten years ago on the 23 June 2000 there was a fire in the Palace Backpackers Hostel in Childers, killing 15 young backpackers – 9 women and 6 men, young travelers from Ireland, Japan, Korea, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. About 60 others managed to escape or were helped out by firefighters. Locals were quick to provide support for the survivors.

Robert Paul Long deliberately set the hostel ablaze, trapping people inside. He is serving a life sentence for murder and arson.

Survivors, families of victims and locals came together on Wednesday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of this tragic event.

A memorial was built a couple of years after the fire in the restored building and includes an art gallery. A wonderful painting was completed by Sydney artist Josonia Palaitis called ‘Taking a break in the field’. The painting includes portraits of each of the 15 victims of the fire. You cannot look at this painting and not be completely overwhelmed with emotion at the tragedy of what happened to these young people and their families.

This event has had a huge impact on the people of Childers. Let’s hope this 10 year commemoration will go somewhat toward easing the pain.

14 thoughts on “10 years since Childers backpacker hostel fire

  1. A terrible, terrible thing. I remember hearing about it on the news. My heart goes out to everyone affected by it. I hope the commemoration helps.

  2. We went through Childers earlier this year, on our way to the Town of 1770. It really is a very lovely town, which seems to get better every time I go though there. Lots of lovely old buildings and evidence of great civic pride. The fire was a sad day for the town, but the local people really shone in their outpouring of sympathy and help for the surviving backpackers – evidence of the important role that backpackers play in the farming economy there.

  3. how sad gabrielle. but you managed to bring it in with compassion. i am impressed that the artist did that painting, it must have been a tough one to do, but then again, if inspired with heart nothing is not do-able. they are putting the final touches on a youth hostel just a stones throw away at the harbor, a little slow for the season but it will be packed soon. and these are people who do the brunt of summer labor. they should be highly prized and honored.

    1. They should tipota. Apparently it was very difficult for the artist and she found it extremely emotional, but the families say she captured the essence of their children very well.

  4. Such a tragedy… I too hope that the coming togther of families and survivors helps to ease the pain. And thank you for sharing the link to Taking a Break in the Field.

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