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Day Of Mourning Today

A Permanent shrine will be built to commemorate the victims and heroes of the Black Saturday bushfires.

As the nation pauses today to pay its respects to those who died in the Victoria fires, the Brumby and Rudd governments will announce a $2.5 million fund for memorials to pay tribute to those who perished including grants of up to $200,000 for fire-ravaged communities to build memorials, monuments or plaques in their towns, The governments also plan to build a major fire victims' shrine of remembrance, either off St Kilda Rd, in Fitzroy Gardens, Flowerdale or Kinglake.

More than 100,000 people are expected to unite in grief in a memorial service to be held today at Rod Laver Arena and screened live at Hisense Arena, Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Federation Square and Docklands' Waterfront City.

Premier John Brumby said a shrine to the bushfire victims would allow Victorians to pay their respects forever.

"The horrible events of Black Saturday will affect many communities forever and we want to ensure each community has a place and a symbol to help them through their recovery," he said.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said memorials would "give people a place to grieve, a place to honour those they have lost and a place to acknowledge the impact of this tragedy on their lives".

At 11am today, church bells will toll throughout the state to mark the National Day of Mourning and the start of Melbourne's memorial service.

Fire victims, Governor-General Quentin Bryce, Victorian Governor David de Kretser, Police Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon and Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart will be among the speakers at the event, as well as Princess Anne will be in attendance to represent HRH, The Queen, she is also expected to meet victims of the blazes.

The service will end with a minute's silence and a message of hope from Mr Rudd but police and security services have been briefed to be on the lookout for extremists trying to derail the special day.

Disgustingly, The US-based Westboro Baptist Church, which last week blamed the fires on Australia's sins, posted a message on its website stating it planned to picket Rod Laver Arena.

Youth Affairs Minister James Merlino yesterday warned troublemakers to stay away.

"I want to assure the victims of the bushfires and the general public who are going to come to this event in their tens of thousands that we've got our usual security arrangements in place," he said.
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