Abbott promises justice for MH17 victims' families

APN NewsdeskPRIME Minister Tony Abbott has promised the families of the 38 Australian victims of the shooting down of MH17 that there "will be a time to judge the guilty".

Mr Abbott joined the families of the victims, a host of Australian dignitaries and political leaders in Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral for the national memorial service on Thursday.

The sombre affair included sermons in several religious denominations, speeches, poems and the national anthem.

Mr Abbott said the day was to honour the dead and grieve with the living, and while we cannot bring them back, "we will bring them home, as far as we humanly can".

The service commemorated the global loss 298 lives when the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, sparking international outcry and a mission to retrieve bodies and investigate the cause.

"We cannot resolve the mystery of needless suffering and death but we can armour ourselves against despair by responding to evil with good - unconquerable good," Mr Abbott said.

"As the Maslin family have so beautifully put it - love conquers hate."