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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13268

Mr BRADBURY (LindsayAssistant Treasurer and Minister Assisting for Deregulation) (10:39): At the age of 91, Penrith's retired Corporal Joseph Henry Fawkes has just embarked on one of the great journeys of his life. After 67 years, Mr Fawkes received the closure he needed earlier this month when three of his fallen comrades were laid to rest with the decency and respect they deserved but never previously received.

Earlier this year I was approached by Mr Gary Dean, a friend of Henry Fawkes, who told me of his long and distinguished career in the armed services. I was greatly moved by his story. Mr Fawkes joined the Army at the age of 18 and was recruited into the Australian Z Special Unit. The unit was made up of around eight soldiers who would steal enemy territory and blow up ammunition dumps.

Mr Fawkes remembers serving in World War II as if it were yesterday. In 1945, he recalls interviewing natives on Celebes Island in Indonesia. He and his comrades had been waiting for a seaplane to take them out when they were ambushed by the enemy. As the Japanese opened fire, Mr Fawkes saw his lieutenant get shot and he raced over to pull him out of danger. The lieutenant died in Mr Fawkes's arms and two other men from the unit were also killed. The three men were buried in a common, unmarked grave. Their remains were shifted by the US military from the Celebes to the Philippines.

Mr Fawkes has spent the past 67 years wondering where his fallen comrades were laid to rest and wishing they could be honoured and remembered with proper headstones. This year, he finally received the closure he needed. As the last surviving member of his unit, Mr Fawkes was notified that the remains of his comrades had been identified and were to be re-buried in Bomana Cemetery in Port Moresby as a part of the 70th anniversary of Kokoda celebrations.

Determined to bid farewell to his comrades with the respect and dignity they deserved, Mr Fawkes was eager to embark on the trip to Port Moresby. After hearing Henry's moving story, I contacted the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Warren Snowdon, who immediately arranged for Mr Fawkes and his daughter to attend the Port Moresby commemoration as guests of the federal government. Mr Fawkes said he would proudly represent all his comrades at the service, which was held on 6 November this year.

Henry Fawkes is an unsung hero of the Penrith region. He has devoted his life to serving his nation and his local community through a range of charitable ventures. I take the opportunity today to congratulate Henry on his exceptional service and I wish him, his wife, Lyn, and his family all the very best for the future.