When Mark and Faye Leveson learned their son Matthew hadn’t shown up for work, they had no idea they were about to embark on an anguished, ten-year search for him.
That search ended in 2017, when Matthew’s body was found in bushland in the National Park.
The Levesons are not alone. Every hour, four Australians go missing.
Over a year, that amounts to 38,000 people who vanish. While most are found relatively quickly, for some families and friends, the agony of not knowing can drag on for years.
The Levesons have become tireless campaigners for families of missing people.
As part of Missing Persons Week, on Friday, August 10, they will attend a special service at Woronora Memorial Park to receive a memorial plaque in honour of Matthew.
The plaque will be placed on the Park’s unique place of remembrance for missing people, the Doorway of Hope, which was created in 2010 to give families who wanted a special place where they could memorialise their missing loved one.
This was officially opened by the family of Daniel Morcombe, another boy whose baffling disappearance was later found to be the result of murder.
“It’s a place of gathering for the community, but it’s not always about remembrance, it’s about hope,” said Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries NSW chief executive officer Graham Boyd.
“Families need a special place of dedication in a beautiful place and to know they aren’t alone.
“I think one of the greatest fears when someone goes missing is what do you do, where do you go?
“The Levesons have been through that, so they know what it’s like and they know what kind of support is out there and what people need.”
While they are quick to say they cannot speak for others, Mark Leveson said that they are sharing their experience in the hope that it will help families in similar situations.
They point out that many people don’t even know when they can call for help.
“A lot of people seem to think that a person has to be missing for 24 hours before you can report it to the police but that’s not true,” Mark said.
“You can report as soon as you’re concerned. There needs to be more awareness.”
When Matthew’s body was found, the Levesons were touched by the overwhelming support they received from the community, including the staff at Woronora.
“They have been so kind to us, helping with Matt’s funeral,” Faye said.
“Even though Matt had been found, they also suggested we could place a plaque at the Doorway of Hope to help keep his memory alive. We’ve brought Matty home with us, but for people who would want to go and pay their respects to him, there’s somewhere to go.”
Faye said that she and Mark were taking part in the service, not just for their son, but for all the families of missing people in Australia.
“We were helped and we just want to pay it forward. We consider ourselves one of the lucky ones because we’ve found Matt. But nobody can imagine the heartache of not knowing.”
Graham Boyd said that, in the absence of a death certificate, the Doorway of Hope was created to give people a place if they needed it.
“The good thing is, it gives choice,” Mark said.
“There’s no right or wrong way to grieve, it’s whatever works for you. For people who want to, the Doorway is somewhere to go to remember.”
The community are welcome to attend the special remembrance service, which commences at 10:30am on Friday, August 10 at the Woronora Memorial Park’s Doorway of Hope, 121 Linden Street, Sutherland.