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  • Fiona Prior


Updated: Sep 23, 2021

At a time when so many of us in Sydney and Victoria are going a little batty with lockdown, this weekend we were also reminded of the terror of September 11 and, of course, we are all nursing concerns for the plight of those Afghans adapting to a new Taliban regime ... along with the usual fears re our environment, our economy, etc. Not much joy!

I’m sure you will agree that the finding of our little boy lost, (Anthony) ‘AJ’ Elfalak, was like a happiness elixir.

image: the resourceful 'AJ' (from ABC report)

The resourceful three-year-old was found drinking water from a puddle in a deep gully after he vanished from his family's rural New South Wales property last Friday. Adding to the difficulties of those looking for AJ was that he is disabled and non-verbal, so incapable of crying out to any rescuer in his vicinity should he have been immobilised through injury and hidden from their view.

Finding lost children is different to finding their lost adult counterparts. Apparently, children can be fearful of those strangers searching for them and hide. It is up to the rescue squad; police, psychologists, RFS, SES and other experts to find methods to gain the missing child's confidence. Remember William Callaghan who went missing in 2020? In the search, a famous scene from ‘Apocalypse Now’ was turned on its head as police helicopters and cars played ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ into the shrubland :) In a similar effort to gain AJ's confidence, it is reported that his rescuer gently put his hand on the little boy’s shoulder and said ‘Hello AJ, I’m Bluey …’ Sharing the name of Australia’s most beloved children’s television dog had to be an advantage in inspiring AJ’s trust.

image: 'Lost' 1907 by Frederick McCubbin

The famous McCubbin painting ‘Lost’ is part of the Australian psyche. It depicts a child alone in the bush, an image that puts fear into the heart of most parents. Though probably politically incorrect to say in 2021, it is the incongruity of the colonial child with its vulnerable complexion, bare legs and feet, and diminutive stature that gives this image its edge. (At this point in my essay, it would be remiss not to mention our stolen generation and the removal of Aboriginal children from the care of their parents. A different kind of 'lost'.)

Well, AJ is back in the loving arms of his parents. Apparently, he almost ate his body weight in pizza and bananas, has cuts and bruises on his legs and a bad case of nappy rash … as you would.

Poignantly, it reminds us of the continuing grief of all those other parents who have not been so lucky, who have not had any closure on the loss of their children. As we were all aware, awaiting the updates over the three-day search for AJ, it could have been far, far worse.

So glad to have you back AJ!

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