Federal politicians in WA and across the country have shared the moment they heard little Cleo Smith was found alive, by doing what every other parent in Australia has been doing — giving their own children an extra long hug.
Australians woke up on Wednesday to the news they had been hoping for, that four-year-old Cleo — who went missing on October 16 in north of Carnarvon — was found “alive and well”.
Attorney-General Michaelia Cash told The West Australian it was “wonderful news after seeing the Smith family endure so much through the past 18 days”.
“I want to give our deepest thanks and admiration to the WA Police Force and the Western Australian community in helping find Cleo,” Ms Cash said.
“I also want to acknowledge the work of the AFP, who provided specialist support through intelligence and aerial surveillance.”
WA Liberal Senator Matt O’Sullivan said he was “absolutely elated” with the news.
“The WA Police, the local community and Cleo’s mum and dad in particular should be so proud as they never gave up on Cleo. Thank God she is safe and well,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
“This story resonated with each and every one of us. We all love our State and the experiences it offers – getting away and giving our kids those special experiences, such as camping, is something so many of us love to and aspire to do.
“You’d never feel unsafe doing it, and for this to happen, it was such a shock and now we are so relieved.”
Fellow WA Liberal Senator Dean Smith said the incredible outcome of Cleo’s safe return was “a powerful reminder never to give up.”
“We are indebted to the WA Police and all those involved for their perseverance and professionalism,” Mr Smith said .
“(This is) a powerful reminder never to give up (and) to always act with hope.”
Officers broke into a locked house in the town of Carnarvon, about 900 kilometres north of Perth, about 1am local time on Wednesday and found the four-year-old girl in one of the rooms.
Burt MP Matt Keogh said while he prayed for the best and feared the worst, he was “so relieved” to wake up to the positive news.
“We’ve all been hugging our own kids just that bit tighter each night these last few weeks,” he said.
“We are so fortunate to have such dedicated hard working police to bring this heart-wrenching episode to a happy ending.”
Defence Assistant Minister and Canning MP Andrew Hastie said Cleo had been in his thoughts and prayers.
“This morning I gave my 4-year-old girl an extra long hug because I just can’t imagine losing my own daughter,” he said.
“It’s just wonderful news and great to see Cleo reunited with her parents.”
Perth MP Patrick Gorman agreed and said Cleo and her parents were the definition of strength.
“The whole nation shares their joy, Mr Gorman said.
“Every parent will be hugging their kids a little tighter tonight.”
Stirling MP Vince Connelly touched on his own experience of being a parent.
“As a father, I am so relieved to hear that little Cleo has been found safe and reunited with her family,” Mr Connelly said.
“To the many police officers and community volunteers who showed great persistence, tenacity and hope — thank you and well done.”
Brand MP Madeleine King paid tribute to the community of Carnarvon.
“I was overwhelmed with absolute relief and joy when I heard Cleo was found alive and well,” she said.
“I can only imagine what her loving parents and the community of Carnarvon are feeling. An amazing effort by our WA Police.”
Defence Industry Minister and Durack MP Melissa Price said the “local community care and commitment to each other was outstanding” over the 18 days Cleo was missing.
“I share the community joy and congratulate WA police, SES volunteers and all who contributed to this miraculous outcome,” she said.
Shadow assistant minister for the environment and Fremantle MP Josh Wilson said: “What an incredible uplifting outcome. So glad for Cleo’s family and so grateful for the ultra-marathon efforts of WA Police.”
Labor Senator Louise Pratt said she felt “such an enormous relief” when she woke to the news.
“I am thankful to know we have such a dedicated police force,” Ms Pratt said.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews thanked WA Police Force and the Australian Federal Police for their efforts during the search.
“Your dedication and professionalism has achieved this amazing result for Cleo and her family — thanks to your hard work all Australians are this morning breathing a sigh of relief,” Ms Andrews said.