MORE than 38,000 people are reported missing each year.
While most are found within a short period of time, there are around 2600 long-term missing persons - and Bathurst has three of them.
Every year, during the first week of August, a week of action takes place in Australia to raise awareness about missing persons.
This year, for the families of Bathurst's Jessica Small, Andrew Russell and Janine Vaughan, Missing Persons Week carries more significance thanks to an Australia-wide effort which has put all three front and centre in the Bathurst community.
A crowdfunding campaign, organised by Rhonda Griffin, with the help of councillor Bobby Bourke and Peter Rogers, saw thousands of dollars raised to make and hang a giant banner, featuring all three, in the heart of the city's CBD.
Mrs Griffin said it was an enormous community effort from the outset, whether it was the people donating or the design team who made the project a reality.
For the families of Bathurst's three missing persons, it was a show of support that has given them renewed hope, even after all these years, that each case might still be cracked.
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Ricki Small, whose daughter Jessica was abducted almost 24 years ago, said she remained hopeful that the banner would lead to fresh information in the case.
"I'm really hoping all the cases will be solved," she said on the eve of Missing Persons Week, which fell just days after what should have been Jessica's 39th birthday.
"Twenty-four years is an eternity."
Janine Vaughan's younger brother, Adam Vaughan, who wasn't able to attend the reveal of the banner because of COVID-19 restrictions, agreed.
He thanked everyone who had supported the campaign from the outset.
He said the family had already had great information come through since the original billboard (of Janine only) had come up, and pleaded with the community to keep it coming.
"You might just have that missing piece of information that connects the puzzle together," he said.
He urged people to "refresh their minds, or finally clear your conscience", saying all three families need closure.
"Jess, Janine and Andrew's whereabouts are known by people in this community, so please speak up and end our nightmare," he said.
Janine's sister Kylie Spelde said the billboard had brought the three families together "and made us stronger in our pursuit of the truth".
"We will never give up," she said.
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Andrew Russell's sister Kiara White agreed.
She is calling on Bathurst Regional Council to make the fixture permanent, saying Bathurst should not be shying away from the fact it has three missing people.
Ms White said she knows there are people in Bathurst who have information which could help locate her brother's remains, and reminded everyone of the $750,000 reward in his case.
How banner came to be in city's CBD
BATHURST'S Missing Persons Billboard is the result of a small working party buoyed by the support of people from across Australia.
Rhonda Griffin got the idea rolling after the Vaughan family, who already have their own banner, asked for help on their Help Find Janine Vaughan Facebook site for somewhere to hang it.
The idea of a billboard in Bathurst was born.
Not only did Mrs Griffin set about raising thousands of dollars for the billboard, she didn't stop until enough was raised to fund the second billboard, featuring not only Janine, but Jessica Small and Andrew Russell as well.
She said she came up with the crowdfunding idea after listening to The Night Driver, the recent 11-episode podcast about Janine Vaughan's disappearance.
She said the whole community had been incredibly supportive.
She said many people in the city have probably wanted to help the three families, but didn't know how they would be able to do so as an individual.
"It was a way we could come together and make a difference," she said of the billboard.
It's a pain that does not fade
JESSICA Small, 15, was last seen in the early hours of Sunday, October 26, 1997 after attending the Amuse Me amusement centre on Russell Street, Bathurst with a female friend.
The girls were attempting to hitchhike home and entered a white sedan driven by an unknown man.
Police were told the man stopped the car on Hereford Street in Bathurst and assaulted both girls, attempting to detain them in the vehicle.
Jessica's friend was able to escape but the car drove off with Jessica still inside.
Investigators believe the last sighting of the vehicle was near Duramana Road and Willott Close in Eglinton.
A $1 million reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person/s responsible for Jessica's disappearance and murder still stands.
ANDREW Russell, 23, was last seen alive on Tuesday, June 2, 2009.
Detectives from Chifley Police District established a strike force to investigate his disappearance and quickly established he met with foul play. Despite extensive investigations and searches over the years, his body has never been located, and no-one has been convicted in connection to his death.
A $750,000 reward still stands for information leading to the recovery of his remains.
JANINE Vaughan, 31, left a nightclub and was last seen getting into a red car on Keppel Street in Bathurst at about 3.50am on Friday, December 7, 2001.
Police started an investigation into her disappearance before the case was referred to the State Crime Command's Homicide Squad.
A coronial inquest conducted in 2009 found Ms Vaughan had died, but her cause of death remained undetermined.
A $1 million reward remains in place.
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