SYDNEY, July 23 -- Australian Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove is traveling to the Netherlands to be present for the arrival of the bodies of the MH17 victims, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced on Wednesday.
In a statement, Abbott said once the remains have been identified, the government will fly family members to the Netherlands, if they wish, to accompany their loved ones home.
The prime minister said he had on Tuesday night asked the governor general to travel to the Netherlands to meet the planes.
"It is important for the families and for our nation that our people be received by one of our own," Abbott said.
Abbott said his special envoy, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, is in Kharkiv for the ceremony marking the departure from the Ukraine to the Netherlands of the first caskets containing the victims' remains.
They are being transferred to the Netherlands for identification and repatriation.
"This process will be methodical and may take some time," Abbott said.
Abbott said more than 100 Australian officials from various agencies are being deployed to Ukraine and the Netherlands to support Operation Bring Them Home.
"The task of identifying the victims is a process that must be conducted carefully and accurately," he said.
"By its very nature, it may take some weeks before we can honour the dead by returning them to those they loved and those that loved them. But we will bring them home."
"Once the Australian victims of MH17 have been identified, the government will transport their families to the Netherlands, should they wish, so they can accompany their loved ones home.
"Since the beginning the government's objectives have remained firm: to retrieve the bodies, to secure the site, to conduct the investigation and to obtain justice for the victims and their families. The Australian government will not rest until this is done."