Speech to Parliament - Defence Honours and Awards
14 February 2022
"Australia has no such recognition for our defence personnel who are injured or killed in the course of their service. This is in spite of the fact that, since the Second World War, our service personnel have experienced a variety of deployments around the world. These have ranged from peacekeeping missions to counterinsurgency stabilisation missions, to direct combat against an enemy force. These deployments have been dangerous, and many of our service personnel have been injured or killed."
Address to the Federation Chamber - Private Members' Business
Monday 14 February 2022
It is a privilege to rise to speak to this motion. I'd like to recognise some of my colleagues who are also participating in this debate and may have already spoken. I note in particular the members for Blair, Solomon and Braddon.
The recognition of our veterans and their service is an issue which enjoys bipartisan support in this place. I know all members, not just the ones contributing to this debate, share a common desire to see our veterans and their families cared for and recognised. But sometimes that care and recognition are elusive and can only be found after some struggle and trouble. That is why this motion is so important.
As things stand, Australia lacks formal recognition of injuries, wounding and death in service. If you look around the world, other countries have formal recognition for wounding and death in the service. The United States, of course, famously has the Purple Heart. Canada has the Memorial Cross and the Sacrifice Medal. France has the Medal for the War Wounded. India has the Wound Medal. The United Kingdom has the Elizabeth Cross. Sweden has the Armed Forces Medal for Wounded in Battle.
But Australia has no such recognition for our defence personnel who are injured or killed in the course of their service. This is in spite of the fact that, since the Second World War, our service personnel have experienced a variety of deployments around the world. These have ranged from peacekeeping missions to counterinsurgency stabilisation missions, to direct combat against an enemy force. These deployments have been dangerous, and many of our service personnel have been injured or killed.
But the dangers from service do not begin and end with a deployment overseas. Too many are injured and even killed in training and other everyday occurrences and accidents relating to service. Make no mistake: serving your country carries dangers, and it's frankly baffling that we have no suitable recognition for those who fall victim to those dangers.
It was a peacetime accident that brought into stark contrast this lack of recognition for the price of service. In 1996, two Black Hawk helicopters carrying troopers from the Special Air Service Regiment collided near Townsville. When the smoke cleared, 15 members of the Special Air Service Regiment were dead, as well as three members of the 5th Aviation Regiment. This terrible disaster highlighted that those who were killed and wounded in this accident would receive no formal recognition for their sacrifice.
For Kerry and Kay Danes, this accident was a catalyst. Alongside others, they began to campaign for proper recognition for those wounded and killed in service. Like others have in too many examples, they had to struggle against the inertia of a bureaucracy which often seems allergic to change. Indeed, in the course of my work as the member for Bean, I've been approached by many veterans whose service has not been appropriately recognised. For some, my representations have resulted in some measure of justice or recognition; for others, the work continues; and, for some, the recognition comes too late.
After some time, the government agreed to an inquiry which resulted in the recommendation from the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal that we are discussing today. We are finally at a point where we will be able to secure recognition for the service of those killed and injured in our Defence Force. But the final steps are up to this government. The final steps to turn the recommendation from the tribunal into an applicable mechanism for award recognition are entirely up to this government. I commend this motion, and I call on the government to take all necessary steps to finally give full recognition to those wounded and killed in the service of our country.