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Thursday, 24 June 2010
Page: 6697


Mr KATTER (11:35 AM) —The previous speakers referred to bravery. If you want to know about bravery, look at the mothers. In my own family, my great-great grandmother suffered this and then my great-grandmother suffered it as well—Bert Henley, my great-grandfather’s brother, died at Gallipoli. His namesake, Bert Henley, died soon after coming home from Changi Prison.

I think the most moving scene I have ever seen in a movie was the first one in Saving Private Ryan. In that movie, the camera is behind the mother at the door. The black limousine pulls up and the telegram is brought telling the mother that her three sons are dead. Everything that was in that woman’s body that held her upright simply crumpled as she collapsed to the floor. Tommy McIver, the famous rough rider and country music singer, wrote in the song 21 Guns: ‘The angel of death with his knock at the door, the crumpled up telegram falls to the floor. Her reason for livin’ is livin’ no more as she cries for the pride of Australia.’

That is the story of Susan Chuck, the mother of the soldier we are commemorating here in the House. I sincerely congratulate the Cairns Post on the really wonderful treatment and effort they have made to honour one of our North Queensland sons. Mr Deputy Speaker, as you do in Tasmania, we live in a very small community where everybody knows everybody. Whilst I do not know the Chucks personally, Gordon Chuck went on the walk at Kokoda with Ian Hosey, and I know Ian very well. My chief of staff and right hand director comes from Malanda, which is just 15 or 20 kilometres down the road, and her mother knows the family well. You can see the sort of people that they are, with Gordon Chuck doing the Kokoda Track. They established Eden House, which is a wonderful tourist attraction and enriches the tourist basket we can offer visitors from outside Far North Queensland. They have made a very great contribution to the Far North Queensland industry.

I am drawing a picture for you of what these people are like. Private Chuck’s home town of Yungaburra must be one of the most beautiful places on earth. It has a magnificent lake and behind it is the dense high-elevation jungle of North Queensland. Every night of the year you use one blanket, and there is no night of the year when you need to use two blankets. It truly is a beautiful place with beautiful buildings and people that are very, very civilised.

Private Chuck, because he was a man who clearly loved challenges, took himself off to become a crocodile handler. I hold up for the benefit of the House a picture of Private Chuck contending with a crocodile, all but wrestling with it. He was also a handler of dangerous snakes at the zoo. He was a man that loved life, loved excitement, loved adventure and was making his contribution, like his parents, to a wonderful industry in Far North Queensland. I quote from the very wonderful treatment by the Cairns Post commemorating one of our sons:

THE brother of fallen soldier Pte Ben Chuck yesterday cautioned against using the commando’s death as a reason to pull Australian troops out of Afghanistan.

As support for the war wanes and is likely to continue to fall after the death of three Australian commandos on Monday, Jason Chuck said his brother was committed to Australia’s role in Afghanistan.

“I don’t want this used as some sort of political justification for bringing troops home. That wouldn’t have been something Ben would have endorsed. He was so proud of what he did,” Mr Chuck said.

A very moving editorial by the paper says:

… on Monday, one of our own sons, Ben Chuck of Yungaburra, was among three experienced Special Forces soldiers killed in a helicopter crash.

Now it is very real, very raw and very painful.

The war is now very much part of our community and we all share the grief of his family and friends in the close-knit Tableland village.

Ben’s death and that of his two colleagues are the worst suffered by the Australian army on operations since Vietnam. …

The Chuck family blames no one for the death of their 27-year-old son. They knew the risks he faced and he did too.

Ben was among the elite in the Special Forces and received a most outstanding soldier award.

He was dedicated to the war on terrorism and determined to play his part in removing these killers who spare no one in their misguided quest of murder.

The family supports Australia’s involvement in the war and do not, for one moment, want the Defence Force to withdraw, despite current debate …

We grieve for the family but we know, as they know, he died bravely and courageously fighting to rid the world of the terror which has changed the face of this planet forever.

Another article in the Cairns Post reads:

BEN Adam Chuck was a man among men. He handled crocodiles and venomous snakes at a local zoo. He flew helicopters and was a “beautiful kickboxer” who never lost a fight.

It was this thirst for adventure that spurred the former Atherton State High School student—

I might add, for those that follow the great game of rugby league, that just up the road is the home of Dallas Johnson and just down the road, at Gordonvale, is the home of Nate Myles. We pride ourselves on the boys coming out of the Atherton Tableland, like Mickey Nasser’s mob. They have always been tough people who love excitement and adventure. The article goes on:

It was this thirst for adventure that spurred the former Atherton State High School student to train as a commando and become part of the Australian forces in Afghanistan in May 2007.

Pte Chuck was due to return home from his third mission in a fortnight, but for his devastated Tableland family, he will never walk through their door.

Yesterday, Pte Chuck’s heartbroken family spoke of their pride for their “courageous and kind” son who celebrated his 27th birthday on Friday.

Dad Gordon, … mum Susan, … brother Jason, … and his wife Gemma gathered at their Yungaburra home yesterday supported by a family friend.

 “Ben believed very much in what he was doing and so did we. We knew the risks and so did he,” Mr Chuck said.

“I guess we will just live with the thought that when you believe in something strongly enough, there’s always the possibility the ending may be like this.

“But he loved his country. I guess he paid the ultimate price and so have we.”

Mrs Chuck said her son … followed in the footsteps of his grandfathers, both decorated soldiers who served in World War II.

“He was an amazing solider and loved it,” Mrs Chuck said.

Pte Chuck was among fewer than 20 of 250 applicants who made the Special Forces …

Remember that those 250 applicants are only the people who thought they would have some chance. If you asked how many people wanted to be a commando, it might be 2,000 or 3,000, but only those 250 thought they were good enough to apply. Of that 250, only 20 became commandos. So this man was an elite of the elite. The article goes on:

He went on to earn four medals and two badges during his six years of service. A Department of Defence spokesperson described him as an outstanding and highly-trained commando whose “affectionate and caring nature drove his passion for helping his mates”.

As a person who spent eight years in uniform in the militia on 24-hour call-up to fight in Indonesia and later in Vietnam, I do not think you really go out there with a burning love for your country. In the back of your mind, you know that that is what it is all about, but really in the Army you do what your country requires of you and you do it because you do not want to let your mates down. That probably is one of the strongest forces operating inside a military unit. The article goes on to quote Private Chuck’s brother Jason:

“Joining the army was probably the best thing he ever did, regardless of the outcome. It gave him such a sense of purpose and direction he didn’t have before.”

The Australian flag at the family’s business Eden House Retreat and Mountain Spa at Yungaburra was flying at half mast yesterday as the Tableland community started to grieve for their fallen son.

Staff at Atherton State High School, from where Pte Chuck graduated a decade ago, remembered him as a well-liked and personable student.

“He’s from a very respected family and was well thought of within the school,” acting principal Stuart Edwards said. “It’s terrible.”

Pte Chuck worked as a wildlife keeper and crocodile handler at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, north of Cairns, for six months before joining the army.

He earlier worked at the Cairns Crocodile Farm.

At Hartley’s, Pte Chuck learned to handle venomous snakes and thrilled tourists as a performer in the crocodile attack show.

Zoo co-owner Peter Freeman said Pte Chuck had left a lasting impression and would drop by Hartley’s to catch up with staff when he visited his family.

“He was an extremely good employee,” Mr Freeman said.

“Everyone who worked with Ben has remembered him and remembered him as a great person and a great colleague.”

…            …            …

“He loved life and all of the adventure he could pack into it,” Mr Chuck said.

“He was a man amongst men.”

Another article says:

 “We will be bring him home,” his mother Susan Chuck told The Cairns Post yesterday.

…            …            …

The decorated soldier, 27, described as a “man among men”, died in a Black Hawk helicopter crash in Kandahar Province early on Monday morning.

Pte Chuck’s brother, Jason, said the news had hit the family hard but there was some comfort in knowing he died doing what he loved.

“He was a passionate soldier and he, and his unit, were always so excited leading into a deployment,” he said.

“He had pride in serving his country and deeply believed in what they were doing.

“It helps us knowing he died doing what he loved and we are sure this is the way he would have wanted to go.”

It is worth mentioning that Private Chuck received commendation as an outstanding soldier on one occasion. We are a small community up on the Atherton Tableland. Particularly in this area we take very great pride in the achievements of our sons like Dallas Johnson and Nate Myles, but we take infinitely greater pride in someone of this nature who died serving his country. The article goes on:

Mrs Chuck said Pte Chuck would be brought home shortly.

“He loved north Queensland,” she said.

“It’s where he would want to be.”