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Thursday, 10 May 2007
Page: 169

Mr FAWCETT (11:51 AM) —I rise to draw the House’s attention to the recent discovery of the remains of two soldiers in Vietnam. Australia, as people would be aware, had a large commitment to the conflict in Vietnam. In 1965, in the Dong Nai province, east of Saigon, there was a battle and two Australian soldiers, Lance Corporal Richard Parker and Private Peter Gillson, did not return from the conflict. They were recorded as missing in action. All up, six Australian servicemen were recorded as missing in action in Vietnam. The remains of Lance Corporal Parker and Private Gillson were discovered recently near Bien Hoa in south Vietnam. Australia sent across government officials to help with the identification, and their remains have now been repatriated or are in the process of being repatriated to their families, which we welcome.

What I would like to highlight to the House, though, is not only the fact that the families can now have some closure to that chapter in their lives but also the important role that groups here in Australia play in keeping alive the memory of those people who were killed in action or who have been listed as missing in action. One of the groups involved is Operation Aussies Home. A group that operates locally in the electorate of Wakefield is an Australian chapter of Rolling Thunder, a group dedicated to keeping alive the memory of people killed in action or listed as missing in action and, more importantly, to taking concrete actions to benefit the remaining families and the veterans who have returned from conflicts.

I would particularly like to mention Mr Tony Flaherty, president of the Two Wells RSL, who runs the chapter here for that organisation. I commend him for the dedicated work he does on behalf of veterans and the tireless efforts he puts into fundraising not only to create opportunities to remember veterans and their families and the sacrifices they have made—through the memorial which the group is building in Two Wells—but also to take the very practical steps when a veteran or members of a soldier’s extended family are struggling with issues to do with disabilities. They get alongside them, whether that is in relation to mental health and counselling or to very practical needs such as ramps and wheelchairs et cetera.

Their fundraising events are gaining quite a reputation in the area because of the energy and the passion they put into them. In the Two Wells community centre, they have had a number of events now where they attract names like James Blundell and Acoustic Juice. Some very significant performers come and give of their time. They make sure they fit Two Wells RSL into their schedule because of the good work that this group is doing on behalf of our veterans. The centre is packed to capacity—around 300 people—pretty much each time one of these events is held. It is indicative of the kind of work that volunteers in our community do, particularly in the veterans community.

Along with that of Tony Flaherty and the Two Wells RSL, I also note the work done by Patch Campbell and the Peter Badcoe Centre, the ex-military rehabilitation centre in South Australia, and Dennis Burge and the northern sub-branch of the Vietnam Veterans Association, who are very proactively reaching out not only to people from the Vietnam conflict but also to more recent veterans, who are returning from service in East Timor, the Solomons, Afghanistan or Iraq, and trying to be very relevant to those young men and women as they leave the Defence Force. We have been able to work with them in finding new facilities, and I thank the several past veterans’ affairs ministers and parliamentary secretaries who look after Defence estate for their cooperation in reaching a good outcome in finding a home with more tenure for the Peter Badcoe Centre, which includes those two groups: the ex-military rehabilitation centre and the northern sub-branch of the Vietnam Veterans Association. In particular, I want to thank the people who are doing that work to benefit the veterans in our community—in this case, in establishing a centre which has the potential in years to come to be a real focus point for people who are leaving the military and their families and to provide the support they need to reintegrate into our community. It is the least we can do to say thankyou to the veterans for the service they have given to this country.