SYDNEY - Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott Tuesday said the first remains of Australians killed in the MH17 crash will return home this week, as he announced a memorial for victims in Canberra.
Australia lost 38 citizens and residents, including children, when the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, killing all 298 on board.
Abbott told parliament that identification of the victims' remains was a "very, very slow process".
"Only this week, the first Australian victims are coming home to their families," he said.
He added that a memorial for the victims would be built in the gardens of Parliament House in time for the first anniversary of the crash.
"I can announce today that a memorial will be erected in the parliamentary gardens to all who perished, especially the 38 Australian victims," he said.
"It will be established for the first anniversary and as a reminder that we will never ever forget them." The Dutch government, which had 193 nationals on the plane, said Friday the remains of 173 passengers on board the jet have been identified by forensic experts.
However, identifying the rest has been problematic with the search for human remains repeatedly disrupted by fierce clashes between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian troops around the crash site.
Abbott said further efforts to recover body parts that might still be at the site could resume when security conditions improve.