Finding the Truth - Convicting the Perpetrators of the MH-17 Downing

In July 2014 news shocked the world that a passenger aircraft - carrying nearly 300 people - crashed after being hit by a missile in Ukraine. Commander with the Australian Federal Police, Hilda Sirec, was one of a team of 10 deployed from Australia to assist with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) response to the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH-17.  This airline crash resulted in the loss of 298 lives, 38 of them who called Australia home.  

This investigation was unprecedented, with the team deployed into an active war zone, with no jurisdiction and no ability to safeguard the evidence in a crime scene that they equally had no guarantee of access to.  Their ultimate goal – to find the truth.


With numerous Australian and International agencies needing to collaborate with, and within, such an uncertain and unpredictable environment, communication and clear lines of direction were critical to be able to navigate forward. 

To achieve their ultimate goal, the team had to implement hourly, daily and weekly goals, particularly as access to the crash site and therefore evidence collection was never certain.


Despite the challenges, Hilda and the team were successful in finding that truth, and on 18 November 2022, an International Court handed down a verdict that the downing of MH-17 was a deliberate act perpetrated by three offenders; who have now been convicted in absentia.


Sharing her biggest learning from the experience Hilda says: my biggest takeaway was to Trust and believe that you have the ability to achieve, even if the circumstances have never been taught or experienced, the skills and the aptitude can be found around you if you ask. Which leads me to the next takeaway, which is look to who can Trust around you, I had complete faith in the people I deployed with, and being able to lean on them no matter what was so important."

This story is part of our Public Sector People spotlight series. The series aims to humanise and celebrate government professionals at all levels that are making a difference for their diverse communities and delivering the best possible outcomes for the citizens they serve.

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