20th anniversary of The Palace backpackers hostel fire in Childers - butcher Buck Gooden whose shop adjoins the former hostel. Photo: Alistair Brightman
20th anniversary of The Palace backpackers hostel fire in Childers - butcher Buck Gooden whose shop adjoins the former hostel. Photo: Alistair Brightman

FIGHTING BACK: Petition to keep arsonist behind bars

IN THE early hours of the morning on June 23, 2000, Buck Gooden received a phone call.

A fire had started at the backpackers' hostel next to the butchery where he worked, and it might be a good idea to go down and rescue the books.

As he entered the back of the building, he saw a man just standing there, watching the blaze, in what would later become an eerie memory.

The man was the person who had lit the fire, Robert Paul Long.

"He was out the back there, you know, still watching it," Mr Gooden said.

 No signs of the fire remain today, save for a memorial inside the Palace Hotel that is currently closed due to COVID-19.

At the back of the former hostel, the Oasis Motel stands.

The Oasis didn't exist when the tragedy unfolded, but manager Jo Malby said the significance of the site was definitely still felt.

A petition is now circulating to keep Long behind bars after he applied for parole when he became eligible earlier this year.

More than 17,000 people have signed it ahead of the 20th anniversary of the horrific fire.

Faye Holyer, visiting Childers from Brisbane, is one of the people who has signed it.

She remembers well hearing the tragic news of the 15 people lost inside the hostel all those years ago.HE early hours of the morning on June 23, 2000, Buck Gooden got a phone call.

A fire had started at the backpackers hostel next to the butchery where he worked, and it might be a good idea to go down and rescue the books.

As he entered the back of the building, he saw a man just standing there, watching the blaze, in what would later become an eerie memory.

The man was the person who had lit the fire, Robert Paul Long.

"He was out the back there, you know, still watching it," Mr Gooden said.

No signs of the fire remain today, save for a memorial inside the Palace Hotel that is currently closed due to COVID-19.

At the back of the former backpackers, the Oasis Motel stands.

The Oasis didn't exist when the tragedy unfolded, but manager Jo Malby said the significance of the site was definitely still felt.

A petition is now circulating to keep Long behind bars after he applied for parole when he became eligible earlier this year.

More than 17,000 people have signed it ahead of the 20th anniversary of the horrific fire.

Faye Holyer, visiting Childers from Brisbane, is one of the people who has signed it.

She remembers well hearing the tragic news of the 15 people lost inside the backpackers all those years ago.