Remarks Doncaster RSL, Doncaster East, VIC

11 Nov 2021
Prime Minister

Prime Minister: Well, thank you very much Keith for that very kind introduction, and it’s great to have you as our Liberal Candidate for Menzies.

To Ryan Smith, the State Member, and to Councillor Michaelle Kleinert, Mayor, thank you for being here with us today.

To all the local RSL representatives who are here today, but most of all, to veterans and to their families. And particularly to Felix and Yvonne Sher and to Bernard and Lee Case. We remember Greg and Marcus today, along with 102,000 other Australians who have done more for this country than any of us could possibly imagine, because we are all here, because they gave their today so we could have this tomorrow, and that is something we will be forever grateful for.

And not just for those of us who are here in this wonderful country, but those who have enjoyed freedom in so many other parts around the world. Because so often we have fought away from our own shores, in all cases, really, and that is something that I think Australians have a great deal of pride in.

And, so, today we come together and we honour their sacrifice, and we honour the sacrifice of your service, of their service, and those families, as well, who carry that sacrifice each and every day, not just on important days like this.

I want to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet, the Wurundjeri people, and pay my respect to their elders, past, present and emerging. And the many Indigenous Australians who have served and continue to serve in our Defence Forces. That service for a long time was not recognised, but I’m so pleased - I’m sure veterans would agree - that it is recognised now, and it is honoured.

I always acknowledge veterans when I get up to speak, in the same way that I acknowledge our Indigenous Australians, because we owe so much, probably more to those two groups than any others.

Our Indigenous Australians who have stewarded this land over from ancient times, but most of all our, also our veterans, who have ensured the freedom that we all enjoy today.

Remembrance Day is a day to honour, in this room, the veterans who have served in Vietnam and East Timor, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It doesn’t matter which battle, which conflict, it’s the same uniform that has been worn. It is the same honour that is being lived up to and shown as you’ve stepped up in our name.

We are safer today because of your efforts and we are free today because of your efforts, and we are deeply thankful.

It is a day for profound reflection - 102,000 Australians lost their lives in the service of our nation.

As Keith said, it’s worth fighting for. He knows, he has.

It’s a day for listening, also. And in that stillness and in that silence, particularly those two minutes, we contemplate the duty and the courage, and above all the sacrifice.

Preserving freedom. Safeguarding democracy.

Standing against tyranny. Protecting our home.

Standing up for our values, so that Australia is never bullied.

I particularly want to again welcome Bernard and Lee Case, the parents of Lieutenant Marcus Case, and Felix and Yvonne Sher, the parents of Private Greg Sher.

These young men lost their lives while deployed on our mission to Afghanistan.

Bernard and Lee, and Felix and Yvonne, I know, from our short discussion, that this has been a difficult journey for you, as it is for families of all those who’ve lost. But also those families when veterans have returned and struggled with the scars of service, which go beyond the physical.

I read about Marcus and Greg’s service last night, and thought about them and their siblings and parents, and got to FaceTime a few seconds ago with his nephews and nieces. Life goes on.

They both lost their lives while deployed.

Marcus - the boy who was born to fly and achieved his lifetime goal of becoming an Army Combat Aviator.

Taking those who’d dare for recreational joy-flights at Lilydale Aerodrome, screaming, “Are you ready for this?”, before performing some pretty awesome aerobatics.

He was an idol to his niece and nephews who, upon seeing a helicopter, would point to the skies and cry, “there goes Marcus”.

Greg - it was said he’d do anything for anybody.

The number of times I’ve heard that said about those who have fallen, when I’ve met families and I’ve heard their stories.

A young man of purpose and determination for whom serving his country was the ultimate reflection of his character.

His colleagues said of their quiet friend: he always got the job done.

Bernard, Lee, and Felix and Yvonne, I want you to know there is no more decent and good purpose than being willing to serve the country that you love, and I know you know that, and I know you know that they know that.

Only the exceptional do it. And, we, of course, will always be proud. And, of course, we will always remember.

And even as I say these words, I know veterans in this room will be thinking of many other names, many other friends.

Friends, when we listen on Remembrance Day, that also means coming alongside our veterans.

Committing ourselves to standing by them.

And I want us to ensure that the men and women of our ADF get the support they need, not only while they serve, but after their service is completed.

The men and women of our ADF are people of immense skill, strength and character.

I see that when I visit them, whether they’re out there in the field or at base or wherever they might be, and after they've returned.

Our Parliament will and should always remember what the price of freedom is.

I know Keith understands that as well.

A former platoon commander who served in a number of combat tours, including Timor Leste and Afghanistan.

And as we see from this morning’s gathering, the veterans of this country are close to his heart.

And I believe he will be a great advocate for you, joining many other veterans who serve in our Parliamentary ranks.

Many of them, obviously, who serve on the Government’s side on the benches. But, indeed, on the Opposition’s side as well. And there is a great spirit of camaraderie amongst those veterans, and I can tell you, they keep us honest when it comes to these issues, and I’m very grateful that they do, on a daily basis.

To the veterans in this room, I want you to know we are a Government that seeks to listen. Not all the things are easy to hear, and they’re not all easy to tell. But I want you to know, that those ears will always be attentive to the stories that you wish to share with us and the lessons that you know we need to learn.

We’ve undertaken some very significant reform of the veterans system across the decades.

And I know, for those, particularly from earlier conflicts, particularly those who experienced Vietnam, it has been a particularly hard road for you in terms of the support that’s been provided to veterans, and the terrible way you were welcomed back to our country.

This is something that Australia will carry for a long time, and I hope the sting of that always reminds us of where we’ve let people down and where we must always do better.

Centring our support to veterans is why we’re now providing veterans with free mental health care for life, and expanding access to the 24/7 counselling services for both veterans and their families.

And we will be listening to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide that I commissioned, as it speaks with veterans and families. And I believe that will be a, I hope, a helpful process, as many of these Royal Commissions have been.

And the further work that we’re doing for the ongoing Commissioner, who will work each and every day to ensure that every life matters of every veteran, well long after they’ve served.

There is much more we are doing, and still much more to do.

So, I want to thank everybody for their tremendous service to our country.

Can I thank all of those who were involved - Keith’s parents, in particular - for helping with the bringing the breakfast together today, and give us the opportunity to come together and honour the fallen in the way we have this morning.

This is a great set of rooms, I’ve got to tell you. As I look around these walls, and I think about the meetings that have been held in these rooms over decades and decades and decades, you can sort of transport yourself back, I think.

And you go out in the room out the back there and you see the wonderful collections of the memorabilia of various conflicts that have been lovingly and carefully pulled together.

It’s a, it’s a work of honour, and it’s a work of service, as well.

And, so, I could think of no better place to be this morning, frankly, in a room just like this, where so many veterans have come and provided encouragement to each other, tried to help each other out, particularly at times when services were not what they are today in supporting veterans. That they can always be better.

And it’s the fellowship and bond that were forged in the most difficult of times in combat, which were then lived on in in simple rooms like this in our suburbs and our towns, in the quiet places all around this country.

So, it’s been a, it’s a great honour to be with you today, and I thank you very much for your service, and I thank your families, too. Thank you very much.