Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Trooper Mark Donaldson VC
On indulgence, to mark an occasion of national significance in the awarding of the Victoria Cross to Trooper Mark Donaldson VC on 16 January 2009: the Victoria Cross is a military award unlike any other. Inscribed across the medal are simply the words ‘For valour’, but in those two words, this highest of Australian military honours tells the stories of many heroes. In January of this year, Trooper Mark Donaldson joined the ranks of these heroes. Not only is Trooper Donaldson the first to receive this highest military honour in 40 years but he is also the very first to receive the Victoria Cross of Australia, which is the national form of this historic award that was established nearly 20 years ago. It is awarded to those who ‘in the presence of the enemy display the most conspicuous gallantry, a daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty’. I can think of no better way to honour Trooper Donaldson than by quoting from the unadorned military prose of his citation. It refers to what happened when the patrol, finally having extracted itself from the ambush in Afghanistan after two hours of fierce fighting, realised that a wounded coalition force interpreter had been left behind. The citation says:
Of his own volition and displaying complete disregard for his own safety, Trooper Donaldson moved alone, on foot, across approximately 80 metres of exposed ground to recover the wounded interpreter. His movement, once identified by the enemy, drew intense and accurate machine gun fire from entrenched positions. Upon reaching the wounded coalition force interpreter, Trooper Donaldson picked him up and carried him back to the relative safety of the vehicles, then provided immediate first aid before returning to the fight.
For honourable members and anyone listening to this debate, I would draw their attention to the full rendition of Trooper Donaldson’s citation. What I have simply referred to the House is a small part of it. It is the stuff of heroes; it is quite extraordinary to read. As I said on the day, which both the Leader of the Opposition and I attended, when the Victoria Cross was awarded to Trooper Donaldson, when I first read the citation I had to read it again and again. The courage that this bloke displayed in full engagement with the enemy simply takes your breath away. It is something of which every member of the Australian Defence Force should be proud and every Australian should be proud as well.
His act of valour is courage writ large. Through his deeds, Trooper Donaldson has brought a great honour upon himself, his family, the Australian Defence Force and our nation. Today I ask the House to join me in expressing our sincere admiration and deep pride in our newest national hero—Trooper Mark Donaldson VC—and, in doing so, we again express our gratitude and appreciation to Trooper Donaldson’s fellow service men and women and their families who today make sacrifices at home and in foreign lands so that we and our families can live safely and securely.