I thank Mr Hanson for his motion today and acknowledge his own contribution to the Australian Defence Force over many years. I acknowledge also the service and sacrifice of all the men and women of the Australian Defence Force over the past 100 years, particularly as we look towards commemorating the Anzac centenary.
As a community we have different ways of acknowledging and interacting with past and present members of the ADF. The Australian War Memorial is obviously an important place in the hearts of Canberrans and the country. It is the place that we go to learn about one important aspect of our past and to remind us that our peaceful country, our country of opportunity, was hard fought for. It is a reminder that we should not take this for granted. Our children learn this at school and, of course, on Anzac Day each year as a community we commemorate the service of all past and present members.
This year’s centenary is particularly important. I especially acknowledge the ongoing contribution of many Canberrans to current and previous peacekeeping and conflict missions around the globe. I would especially like to acknowledge the many Gungahlin families who serve in the Australian Defence Force. In my own children’s school many of their friends have parents, usually fathers, who serve in conflict and peacekeeping missions. They are often away for months at a time, before returning to “normal” family life. I often wonder what it must have been like serving in Oruzgan Province in Afghanistan for months on end, in the dust and in the conflict, returning to this most peaceful city, this city of opportunity.
I know those serving make enormous sacrifices, in some cases the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives. Their families, as has been mentioned, often make significant sacrifices as well. They sometimes miss the birth of their children; they miss birthdays and anniversaries; they miss their children’s first days at school. In our own school and in many schools across Canberra I particularly acknowledge the work of defence school transition aides in a number of schools who work with the children of defence families as they transition into new schools and find themselves in cities and towns all across Australia—as diverse as Canberra, Townsville, Darwin and Puckapunyal.
The Australian Defence Force, through the Defence Community Organisation, works hard to ensure that families are supported as they move around the country every few years. I also acknowledge Defence Families Australia, the official body appointed by the government to represent the views of defence families. They advocate strongly for the experience of defence families and for support for them.
I also acknowledge the ex-service organisations who work with veterans of current and past missions. The grief and trauma veterans experience are often not obvious. In particular, those suffering one of the most hidden of injuries, post traumatic stress disorder, are now more likely through the work of these organisations to be acknowledged and receive the support they need to fully recover.
Before joining the Assembly I spent many years working with ADF personnel and civilians in my roles in the New South Wales Police Force, the Australian Federal Police and the commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department. Many serve alongside law enforcement and other public servants in offshore missions. The long history of service and professionalism of so many ADF personnel will always stay with me. Their sacrifice and service ethos is obvious. I was especially pleased to work alongside women serving in the ADF and I am very heartened to see the cultural transformation underway to improve gender equality in the ADF, which can only strengthen the organisation and our country.
Much of this work in places like East Timor, Afghanistan, Sudan and Solomon Islands was to maintain peace, build communities and build vital infrastructure. The work of many ADF personnel is in community and infrastructure building and in furthering relationships with local communities. Although the Anzac spirit is undeniably linked with Defence Force personnel, it is also a commemoration of peaceful activity and community and nation building.
As a dual Australian and New Zealand citizen, the Anzac spirit has special significance for me. Australia and New Zealand have a shared history in the special Anzac centenary year, a history that makes citizens of both countries feel at home with each another. There is nothing quite like the relationship between Australians and New Zealanders.
To close, I acknowledge the ongoing and profound contribution of Defence Force personnel and defence families to the Australian community in this special Anzac centenary year.