Monday, 19 March 2012
National Servicemen's Day
I rise in the House this evening to pay tribute to our national servicemen. On Sunday, 18 March I had the honour of attending the Tasmanian National Servicemen's Association of Australia annual commemoration day in Launceston. I thank those involved in planning and executing this event, especially the president of the Launceston branch, Bill Dabner. Past servicemen marched with Defence Force cadets and the City of Launceston RSL band from Launceston's Civic Square to the service at the Launceston Cenotaph. Air Vice-Marshal Gavin—known as Leo—Davies, CSC, the Deputy Chief of Air Force, took the salute.
On the day, Jim Stewart of Devon Hills commented that being involved in the national service had been 'the greatest experience of his life'. Bernie Morgan, another proud nasho, said it had taught him the ability to be 'self-reliant and disciplined'. I thank them both for their service and am humbled to say there were two Tasmanians on the National Service Honour Roll. As stated on the National Servicemen's Association website:
Kevin Brewer, 22, of Launceston, Tasmania, was called up on 12 July, 1967 and left for Vietnam with the advance party of 4RAR. He died of wounds during Operation Trackduster, a search and destroy mission, on Route 15, near Thai Thien on October 8, 1968. Albert McCormack, 21, of Launceston, Tasmania, was a clerk when called up on June 30, 1965 and was attached to D Company 6RAR after training in Queensland. He and Dennis McCormack, from Adelaide, had consecutive Queensland service numbers; both were attached to D Coy and both died in the battle of Long Tan on 18 August, 1966. D Coy, with artillery and APC support, fought off a force of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops at least 10 times their number in pouring monsoonal rain in the Long Tan rubber plantation. They set a standard of courage, discipline, co-ordination and tactics that all Australian units were to follow in Vietnam.
To give some background, the National Servicemen's Association of Australia was founded in 1987 and now is the second largest ex-service organisation in the nation. There are branches in each state and territory and it represents 287,000 young men who were called up for service in the Navy, Army and Air Force in the two schemes between 1951 and 1972. Sadly, 212 died on active service—two in Borneo and 210 in Vietnam.
The association's objectives are to promote the health and welfare of national servicemen; to represent national servicemen to government, to community and to media; to record the history of national service and its role in Australia's defence effort; as well as to provide a national servicemen's perspective on defence and community issues. The association also aims to build and maintain memorials to national servicemen who died on active service and those who have died since; to promote educational programs about national service in our schools and in the community; and to promote social interaction between national servicemen and the wider defence communities. These are very important objectives and I commend their community engagement and services.
Enjoying a healthy lifestyle is important for all Australians—and it is no different for members of the veteran community. The association's welfare programs include visits to sick members and information on issues such as health and welfare benefits, and it provides information about retirement homes and financial planning advice.
There were calls on Sunday for the reinstatement of national service. Whilst I appreciate this point of view, I feel there are many other avenues for Australians to contribute to their community. I encourage all Australians, young and old, to seek out local service and community groups such as Rotary, Lions and Apex clubs, volunteer emergency services, environmental groups, surf life saving clubs and aged-care facilities, and volunteer your time and expertise. It will be greatly appreciated and you can make a real difference to the lives of others and the community. The traditions learned through national service such as mateship, loyalty, discipline and teamwork are ingrained in Australian culture, and I urge Australians to be involved in their local community with this spirit of hard work and dedication that was shown by our Nashos.
On a final note, I wish to honour and commemorate the lives lost of national servicemen and commend their important contribution to our nation. We must never forget the service and sacrifice of these brave young Australians, who fought with great courage and valour in the face of adversity. Lest we forget. (Time expired)