Remarks, Launch of IBM & Soldier On's 'Skills Build Program'

14 Aug 2020
Prime Minister

PRIME MINISTER: Can I also acknowledge the Ngunnawal people, elders past, present and future. As I always do, and there are quite a number here today. We thank the many veterans who are here today, thank them for their service and serving members of our defence forces, particularly, as we come to mark the 75th anniversary. And looking forward to the special ceremony will be at the War Memorial tomorrow. I think that will be a very important mark and event. It might be a little different to what we had anticipated in other times and as it was on that rather eerie day on ANZAC Day. But a very special day this year, one that I'm sure will be remembered for many reasons. But I think even though people had to keep distance, there was a sense of connection which probably surpassed many other occasions prior to that. And so we'll do that tomorrow.

So to Lieutenant General Professor Peter Leahy, it's great to be here with you again. We’ve partnered on many projects with Soldier On and Soldier On does such a tremendous job. And to Ivan, congratulations on the role you’re taking on. It's an incredibly important partner in so many areas, not just in supporting veterans as they move through that transition and their many challenges of life, but also an important partner for the Government on really exciting projects like this. The key message that I know Darren Chester and I always try to stress is while, of course, we must stand with our veterans, as they deal with so many challenges, we also must stress just how amazing veterans are and what an asset veterans are to Australia in their own right, but particularly when it comes to the contributions they can make in businesses all around the country, running businesses, recruiting others. And every time I talk to employers, I haven't heard a bad story about their experience in employing veterans. The values that are brought to that organisation and the focus and direction of the teamwork they are able to instil and, of course, the very skills that they have as well. To Jeff, Christopher, Jody, Tonia and Ben, it's great to meet you and thank you for joining us here today. And all the family members who make the service possible with so many of our veterans and serving members today. And to Katrina, thank you for your initiative and in pulling this all together.

A small secret of this building - from my office to this little Cabinet anteroom and through the Cabinet Room and to the marble expanse, which is just on the other side there of the Great Hall and the vestibule. You open all the doors up from here all the way through, you can look straight to the War Memorial. And it was designed that way because as we sit in that Cabinet Office and I take decisions that we need to take there, is a constant reminder and memory looking through the Great Hall of the sacrifice that made all of that possible for us to do that today. And that's as it should be. A line of sight to the 102,000 names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice and we've already mentioned that tomorrow is the 75th Anniversary of VP Day. One million wore the uniform. Almost 40,000 of them did not return. Fortunately, my grandfather was one who did and I hope that was the case of your family as well. But tens of thousands with injuries, seen and unseen. And I recall when, I was only a young boy, but I remember when my grandfather was alive, he wouldn't talk about these things. He talked to his mates about them. But many of them suffered as well in silence. And today, many do still suffer. But I'm pleased to say at least the services and supports that are available to veterans, and particularly through organisations like Soldier On themselves and the corporate support that is provided today, is so different to what all those returning vets went through. Not only in the Second World War but as we know, in particular, returning from Vietnam, especially. Every area of conflict, field of conflict, that our servicemen and women have been engaged in have had to face different trials and struggles as they've come back.

The challenges of supporting veterans that have returned from Afghanistan and the Middle East, most recently, are different to those who have been in Vietnam, Korea or Malaysia or places like that. And then, of course, back to the Second and First World Wars. Every generation that has passed through that period of service has presented new challenges for them. And one of the most interesting challenges, which is a positive one, is what we're here to talk about today, and that is as part of the Veterans Employment Programme, the programme that I believe we're seen to be really connecting veterans to workplaces, to jobs, and that requires the skills and the skills investment that has been made here by IBM to ensure that we can equip today's veterans to be successful in a digital economy. It's great for them. It’s great for IBM. It's great for the Australian economy. It's great for jobs. COVID or no COVID, the challenge is the same of equipping our veterans with skills. The challenge is the same for our workforce more broadly. We know that the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting particularly on young people in a way that is devastating for them. And we hope that when we can particularly deal with issues that we're currently confronting in Victoria that we'll be able to get ourselves back on that path and we'll see those jobs come back and we'll see those jobs come back for young people. But at the same time, we need to be equipping people for those jobs. And digital skills are absolutely central that for all of us to be successful in the decade that is ahead. 

So to see those who are joining us today taking up those opportunities, we're very pleased about that. Christopher, a commissioned naval officer. You've had experience in leadership adapting to change and demonstrating that that leadership. And we celebrate that with you, the values that you live. Ben, you've had several senior positions, including as CEO of Outward Bound Australia. And along the way, you won gold at the last Invictus Games, we celebrate it and that's tremendous. Jeff’s picked up a trade in his case as an electronic technician. Like many of our servicemen and women do right now, what you offer is exactly what we need. And Jody, you've made a decision to move away, as we were just discussing, from the Air Force after 25 years of service back in June. And, Tonia, you've had it tough lately, particularly being in Virgin, and we understand that. And that's a real difficulty. And you've been living through that and I want to extend to all of your former work colleagues and those who are still there, please, with that in mind being able to go forward. But you've been able to, you’ve had the opportunity to work through those skills changes. And that's what this is all about. The Skills Build programme is about jobs. And we're about jobs. And anyone who wants to create jobs is a partner of mine. That's who I'm working with, people who want to create jobs and soldier on and IBM are certainly doing that. A programme available to more than 3000 Australian veterans and their families focussing on areas like, well, development, cyber security of course, and this is a big focus for us as well. So Christopher, Jody, Jeff and Tonia, working in a digital world course which covers AI, the cloud, the Internet of Things and so much more. So they'll be very interesting. And best of all, the programme will connect participants with employers through internships and project assignments with non-government organisations. So thanks to Soldier On and to IBM who've made this happen. We appreciate that, our veterans and their families, that they have so much to offer. Tomorrow, we will give thanks to those who offered everything and the peace that we enjoy today, 75 years on, is as precious today as it was when it was first realised 75 years ago today. And I want to thank all those veterans who’ve ensured that that peace continues to be our experience today. 

Thank you very much.