Speech - Vietnam Veterans' Day

18 Aug 2023
Ipswich, Queensland
Prime Minister
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I would like to acknowledge all those serving men and women who are with us today and all the veterans who are with us today.

It is a great honour for me to be here with you.

I want to also acknowledge my parliamentary colleague and friend Shayne Neumann for the outstanding work that he does on an ongoing basis as a representative of this local community that he is so passionate about.

To the Mayor and other dignitaries who are here and particularly to the officials of the RSL, thank you for the invitation to share this important day with you.

Earlier this year, I joined my colleagues at the Australian War Memorial for the Last Post ceremony.

It is a solemn event, and an important beginning to each parliamentary year.

As we are surrounded by the names of the fallen, we are reminded of our debt to all who have served.

Yet even as we acknowledge that debt, and the gratitude that goes with it, it must also be said that as a nation, our relationship with our military history has been uneven.

As I said at the War Memorial, we must acknowledge those we sent to war in our name, who did their duty in our name, but whose names we failed to hold up so proudly.

Fifty years after the role of Australian troops in the hostilities in Vietnam came to an end, let us again acknowledge you.

Let us acknowledge the weight of what you lived through, what you saw, what you felt.

The nights that took on a sense of menace you never knew before, and the realisation that just as much could lie hidden in bright sunshine.

Days mapped out in a mosaic of fear and monotony, aching for home but lifted by the camaraderie with your mates.

All the while not knowing what each day might bring.

Not knowing what, or who, it might take.

We should have acknowledged you better as a nation then.

But the truth is, as a nation we didn’t.

Times have changed, though regrettably too slowly for many veterans who are no longer with us.

But we have matured enough as a nation to embrace the truth that we can disagree with a war without that diminishing the respect we feel for every man and woman who puts on our uniform and serves in our name.

Respect for your valour, your integrity and your character.

Respect for the truth that you have all paid a price – a price that some are still paying.

Respect for the fact that you live with the memory of mates who never came back, and memories of all that you lived through.

You upheld Australia’s name.

You showed the Australian character at its finest.

You deserved so very much better than you received.

Let us say to every one of our Vietnam veterans, today and every day, we honour you, we thank you and we are sorry that as a nation, it took us so long for us as a nation to do so.

Lest we forget.