Ursula Barwick is my cousin, more like my sister. In 1987, when she was 17 and I was almost 15, Ursula disappeared. It took 30 years to find her.

Every person who knew Ursula, both those who grew up with her, those who were close to her, and those who only said a casual hello to her in the school yard or up the street, all remember the same things. Ursula was always laughing, always smiling, always having fun.

I speak to ABC Western Victoria about the launch of my novel FOUND in 2017.

At the time of the interview I knew Ursula had been found and think I do a very good job of side-stepping his question as I was not in a position to share the news at that time.

I love this interview in so many ways as it also reminds me of my passion for writing and for raising awareness for missing people.

This is my very emotional interview with ABC Canberra on the eve of my book launch of Found in July 2017.

Mum and I couldn’t find the studio so I was late and worried I had missed the interview, and in our panic we had set the car radio to the wrong channel so Mum didn’t get to listen until thankfully they posted it online with this comment: Melissa shocked Laura Tchiliguirian by telling her some startling news about Ursula.

At the heart of my writing is a desire to help the broader community understand what it’s like when someone you love goes missing.

After I published Write About Me, my life was a rollercoaster with a fresh investigation into Ursula’s case where I swung from hope to despair then back to hope again.

We are fortunate to have found Ursula, and I am grateful for Kings Cross detectives Kurt Hayward and Amy Scott and Strike Force Hemingway for never giving up. I also had the incredible support of the Australian Federal Police National Missing Persons Coordination Centre, Families and Friends of Missing People, the Australian Missing Persons Register and the Missing Persons Advocacy Network (MPAN).

Has someone in your life gone missing?

When someone goes missing, many more are lost…this is why Melissa Pouliot, the family member of Ursula Barwick, missing since 1987, launched Picnic for Missing in 2014 as part of National Missing Persons Week.

What is Picnic for Missing?

Picnic for Missing is part of National Missing Persons Week (the first full week in August). This is a week where the Australian Federal Police National Missing Persons Coordination Centre puts its full attention and focus on raising awareness for missing people. This is also a week of heightened interest by the media and broader community to highlight the many issues surrounding missing people.

Picnic for Missing is an opportunity for friends and families to celebrate the life of a loved one who has gone missing from their lives. It also provides a real and genuine opportunity for all families of people still missing to reignite hope for their loved one.

When is Picnic for Missing? I have had my Picnics for Ursula to coincide with National Missing Persons Week when there is a big focus on missing people and reinvigorating fresh hope for families and friends, but you can have your Picnic for your missing loved one any day of the year.

Who inspired Picnic for Missing? The inspiration behind Picnic for Missing is Melissa’s first cousin, Ursula Dianne Barwick, who went missing in 1987, aged 17. Melissa launched Picnic for Missing in 2014 in memory of the childhood picnics she enjoyed with Ursula.

Melissa says:

“Through Picnic for Missing I aim to inspire other families in a similar situation to never give up hope.”

How do you get involved in Picnic for Missing?

Picnic for Missing is another avenue and opportunity to put the spotlight on the important community issue of missing persons, which affects an estimated 420,000 people in Australia every year. Anyone, anywhere in the world, can have a Picnic for Missing. It can be a grand event in a public place, or a quiet picnic on an isolated beach.

Daniel Morcombe Foundation

Melissa first met Denise Morcombe in 2014. As a result of that meeting she returned to her home region and contacted schools and local businesses so they could be involved in Day for Daniel.
Since 2015 she has been a Day for Daniel Ambassador, getting schools and businesses in her NSW South Coast community involved in this important child safey event.
As the 2015 Ambassador she worked with the Australian Federal Police to bring the DMF Safety Truck to the South Coast for the first time, where the head of the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre Rebecca Kotz delivered safety talks to over 2000 students on behalf of Bruce and Denise Morcombe.
This tour visited schools from Batemans Bay south to Pambula and everywhere inbetween.

LEFT: Bruce, Denise, Rebecca and Melissa catch up at the 2017 International Missing Children’s Day launch in Canberra, to plan for this year’s Day for Daniel.

Day for Daniel

“As a parent and the family member of a long-term missing person I am passionate about supporting awareness and prevention. I am proud to support the modern and progressive approach by the foundation to give our children the skills to stay safe both in the real world and online. I became involved in Day for Daniel in an effort to spread the reach of the foundation to the NSW South Coast. I was thrilled to be part of the Capital to Coast tour in 2015 involving 16 schools and more than 2000 children from Canberra to Pambula and everywhere inbetween, and I am keen to see even more schools in regional areas get involved and include the Foundation’s child safety messages in their curriculum.”

RIGHT: Denise, Melissa and Bruce at the launch of the 2015 Capital to Coast Tour