The Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd), has advised me that Her Majesty The Queen has given approval for the award of the Victoria Cross for Australia to Ordinary Seaman Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheean for his actions on 1 December 1942, when he sacrificed his life to save his shipmates during the sinking of the HMAS Armidale.
Ordinary Seaman Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheean was an extraordinary Australian and Australia will remain eternally grateful for his service, dedication and sacrifice.
In June I established an Expert Panel, chaired by Dr Brendan Nelson AO, to resolve the contradicting advice regarding the case for an award of the Victoria Cross to Teddy Sheean.
There was never any question to the extent of Teddy’s heroism and valour. It was exceptional. But the Government was faced with two previous findings of equal standing from two reviews that had concluded different results. It was important that the Expert Panel settle this conflicting evidence and determine whether there was new evidence to help dispel any ambiguity.
The Panel’s report found there was compelling new evidence, including new evidence discovered by the Panel, in support of higher recognition for Teddy Sheean, and that Sheean was done a substantial injustice in consideration of his actions in the original decision making period in 1942 to 1943. It found Sheean's courageous sacrifice of his life to save his shipmates makes him eligible for the Victoria Cross for Australia, and the highest level of recognition should be accorded in this exceptional case.
I accepted this advice and I had asked the Governor-General to convey the Government’s recommendation to Her Majesty The Queen.
I welcome the approval of Her Majesty.
The Victoria Cross is the highest award that can be provided to any Australian serviceman or woman for their valour. As Prime Minister and as a Government, we have a very special responsibility to ensure that the integrity of the Victoria Cross is upheld for all of those who've been honoured by being bestowed.
The decision formalises what we already know: that Teddy Sheean is an Australian hero.
78 years might have passed since he died but his story will always be part of us.
After the order was given for the crew of the HMAS Armidale to abandon ship, Japanese aircraft strafed the Australian sailors who were overboard. Sheean then turned back, made for the gun, strapped himself in, and returned fire to the Japanese. He fought to the very end.
He chose to save the lives of his shipmates rather than his own.
A week after the sinking, 49 men from the HMAS Armidale were rescued. Many of these men owed their lives to the actions of Teddy Sheean.
All Australians can share in the joy of this award.
All who have served and who serve in the Royal Australian Navy can take satisfaction that the valour of one of their comrades has been recognised by the highest honour.
This week, we celebrate the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Pacific. Teddy Sheean never saw war’s end, never saw the peace he helped secure, and did not enjoy the long life that many of his crew mates did. That was the price he paid for his valour.
I honour the Sheean family and Tasmanians who faithfully kept the case of Teddy Sheean before us all.