Faces of missing Australians have been plastered on milk bottles in a throwback to a successful 1980s global policing campaign.
Canberra Milk worked with the Australian Federal Police to have the faces of 12 long-term missing people from around the region printed on their one-litre plastic milk bottles.
The initiative launched this week and will run for six weeks in a bid to trigger tips from the public about the missing Aussies.
AFP Assistant Commissioner Debbie Platz said the initiative would take the community back to a time before social media notifications and Amber Alerts.
“ … To when reports of missing people appeared in a place guaranteed to catch the eyes of the broader population,” Ms Platz said.
“In turn, we hope this tried-and-tested method will start a new conversation about the region’s missing people and how the community can help police find them.”
ACT Chief Police Officer Ray Johnson said police were now relying on the public to purchase the milk — manufactured by Capitol Chilled Foods Australia — and try to remember anything that could help solve the disappearances.
“There are families who have been waiting, in some cases for decades, for news about their loved ones,” Mr Johnson said.
“This new campaign is one more tool that may provide vital information to investigators in each of these 12 cases.”
Mr Johnson said anyone who recognised any of the missing people on the milk bottles was urged to contact Crime Stoppers.
THE FIRST MILK CARTON CAMPAIGN
The idea to print the faces of missing people on milk cartons was introduced in the US in 1984 as a way to draw attention to a high-profile child abduction case.
The first child to appear on the side of a milk carton was Etan Patz, a six-year-old who disappeared in Manhattan in 1979 during his very first walk to the school bus stop alone.
At the time, there was no system to distribute the details of a missing child to the public in a timely manner.
The Milk Carton Kids campaign — which featured kids’ faces and details of their last whereabouts — was the first effort to raise awareness about child abduction and “stranger danger”.
Tragically, Etan’s body was never found, but Pedro Hernandez confessed to his kidnapping and murder and was convicted in 2017.
The Milk Carton Kids, as well as a string of high-profile child abduction cases, led to the launch of the Amber Alert system that is used around the world today.
THE 12 MISSING AUSSIES
The ACT Police missing person unit has selected the following 12 profiles to feature on the side of Canberra milk bottles from this week.
They are mostly long-term cases of people whose families are desperate for them to return home safely:
Laura, who would now be 35 years old, was last seen on January 5, 2008, in Queanbeyan, NSW.
She told her friend she was heading to work and left in a red Mazda 121.
She never arrived at her work and has not made contact with friends or family since.
Elizabeth had been at the Acton bar on the Australian National University campus the night she disappeared, on June 13, 1980.
Locals said they saw her hitchhiking on the southbound carriageway leading to Commowealth Avenue in Canberra between 9pm and 9.45pm.
It is understood she was given a lift in a car, but she never returned home and has not been heard from since.
Amelia had a distinguishing chipped front tooth when she was last seen on December 22, 1992.
It is understood she was upset after having a fight with her boyfriend and was last seen at the Woden Plaza Shopping Centre, in Canberra.
There have been a number of alleged sightings of Amelia in the years since but no positive identification has been made.
Kate Alexander was last seen in Yarralumla on March 31, 1974.
Police describe Kate as an “unassuming type of person and could easily be taken advantage of”.
“Kate is absent-minded and fears are held for her safety,” a statement said.
Megan was a teenager when she disappeared on July 28, 1984.
She had just finished her shift at Big W at the Woden Plaza Shopping Centre in Canberra and was spotted standing at the western entrance about 12.15pm.
She never returned home and hasn’t been heard from since.
David had been visiting friends in Canberra when he disappeared on July 10, 2012.
He had just moved to Canberra from Sydney and was known to stay with friends in the Bega and Allawag Flats areas.
Police received reports David also uses the names “Gabrielle” and “Malak”.
Jean, who also goes by the name “Vince”, was last seen on September 26, 2017 in Bonner.
He was known to frequent the Golden Moth walking trail in Mulligans Flat.
His family reported he left his phone, wallet and house keys at home the day he went missing, and they could not recall what he was wearing or which direction he travelled in.
Police searched nearby bushland extensively, as well as local lakes and ponds, but Jean has never been located.
Owen was last seen in his home in Noarlunga Downs, South Australia, on May 29, 2018.
He suffered a brain injury following a car crash, and his family and doctors are seriously concerned for his welfare.
Owen was also transitioning into a woman and would most likely be wearing a wig and women’s clothing and travelling under an alias of Gwen Wellian.
Owen has scarring to the left side of his face.
Wayne Pickett had been travelling to Canberra from his home in Leumeah, NSW, when he was last seen on May 27, 1995.
He has not made contact with family or friends in over two decades.
Anthony was last seen on July 3, 2013 in the Canberra suburb of Belconnen.
Locals spotted him boarding a bus from Canberra bound for Sydney.
Robert Hal Jacob was last seen in Canberra’s CBD on November 12, 2015.
His daughter reported him missing after he failed to contact her for several weeks.
Robert never owned a phone and lived alone but was frequently spotted around inner-city public areas.
He suffers from heart and lung conditions, and his family is seriously concerned about his welfare.
Wendy was last seen leaving her family home in Cook, ACT, to walk to the shops on September 25, 1975.
Her family expected her to return home a few minutes later, but she never did.
She has a husband and three children.
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Originally published as Shock change to Aussie milk bottles