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Thursday, 19 June 2008
Page: 5422

Mr ZAPPIA (12:15 PM) —I too rise to speak in support of the Military Memorials of National Significance Bill 2008. At the outset I congratulate the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs on introducing this bill, particularly because this bill establishes the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial in Ballarat as a memorial of national significance. I also take the opportunity to acknowledge the work of the member for Ballarat, Cathy King.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Peter Slipper)—I remind the honourable member of what I just said; namely, that honourable members ought to be referred to only by the name of their electorate.

Mr ZAPPIA —I acknowledge the work of the member for Ballarat in her tireless campaign for having the Ballarat memorial recognised in this way. In doing so, she has supported not only her local community but the veterans from all over Australia, including those that are currently serving in the defence forces.

Other speakers have spoken at length about the importance of military memorials right across Australia, and rightly so. It is interesting to hear speakers from both sides of this House acknowledge the significance that they have within their local communities. In communities all around Australia—be it in your own community or wherever you might travel—it is most likely that you will find a war memorial of one kind or another. When I am travelling through a town that is new to me and have the time, I will stop and have a look at the memorials and read the names that are inevitably inscribed on a plaque or on the memorial somewhere. Not only does this give me some insight into the service the people from that locality gave for this country but it tells me a lot about the local community itself. That memorial represents something to the family members, the friends and the locals. While sometimes it is only a relatively small memorial when you compare it with others, the reality is that for the local community that memorial is most significant. It is cared for and treated with the utmost reverence and respect which it deserves, because it is a permanent reminder of the ultimate commitment made for Australia by the men and women for whom that memorial was erected.

Over the years I have had occasion to work alongside and be associated with a number of veteran organisations in my local community. I refer specifically to the Tea Tree Gully and the Salisbury RSL branches, the Para district servicemen’s association and in particular the Para district sub-branch of the National Servicemen’s Association, the northern branch of the Vietnam Veterans Association, the Peter Badcoe Ex-military Rehabilitation Centre and the historical military vehicles museum group. All of these associations have over the years established one form of memorial or another in honour of the people they represent. In most cases I have been able to provide some assistance to them in doing that. Therefore, I understand the importance of these memorials to the local organisations. When you work with an organisation to have a memorial established you not only go through that painstaking process to get it established but understand the passion behind the efforts of those who ultimately are responsible for it being established.

Today I want to speak briefly about two of the organisations that I have had a longstanding relationship with and which I was able to assist along the way in the establishment of their memorials. I refer to the Para District National Servicemen’s Association of South Australia. Earlier the member for Braddon spoke at length about the National Servicemen’s Association and the need for a memorial to be established for them here in Canberra or someplace in Australia—I understand that it will be here in Canberra. I am also aware that our own local community made a contribution towards the establishment of that memorial.

The Para District National Servicemen’s Association was established some 10 years ago in the northern parts of Adelaide. On 13 September this year I hope to attend their 10th anniversary charter dinner, as I have attended their annual dinners almost every year since the establishment of the organisation. Several years ago they contacted me when I was the Mayor of Salisbury seeking my assistance in having a local memorial established to honour the national service men and women veterans in the northern suburbs of Adelaide. I was able to assist them and a memorial was established in Pitman Park in Salisbury. Each year a memorial service is held at that location. It is usually held in the first week of February. Again, I have been able to attend all of the services held there since the memorial was established. When you attend that service—and I have to say that it could be classed as a relatively low-key service—you understand the important meaning that the memorial has for the veterans associated with that memorial. I am not only pleased that I have been associated with these people; I am pleased that we have been able to establish a memorial for them, because many of them felt somewhat left out of other recognitions that have been provided to veterans in this country.

The second example I want to speak about is the Vietnam veterans memorial established in Montague Farm, which is a residential estate in the suburb of Pooraka. Montague Farm was a joint project between the state government and private enterprise and was established in the late eighties and early nineties. At the time of its establishment, Fred Pritchard, who was working for the state government, was the project manager. Fred Pritchard was also a Vietnam veteran. He came up with the idea of having all of the streets in the new estate named after Vietnam soldiers who were from or were based in South Australia and who went to Vietnam and lost their lives. With my assistance and that of the council, that idea was embraced, and all of the streets in that community are now named after those Vietnam veterans. More specifically, each street sign has a notation about the soldier it is named after. That gives visitors to the community some understanding of who the person was and why the street was named after them.

In addition to that there is in a reserve within the residential estate known as Henderson Square a specific memorial. A plaque on a stone has the names of all of the South Australians who served and were killed in Vietnam. In addition, last year there was a sculpture done to commemorate the Vietnam veterans of South Australia. The sculpture is referred to as the ‘Seeds of Attainment’. There are some seeds and there is a plant germinating from the seeds. It symbolises rising from the ground after fire. That very much goes hand in hand with the participation of our Vietnam vets in Vietnam. Each year we commemorate the Battle of Long Tan, where 18 Australians were killed and 21 were wounded. It is one of the most notable battles of the Vietnam War. An annual memorial service is held on this site. It is attended by people from all over South Australia and Australia because the memorial specifically remembers and honours those soldiers who served in Vietnam. Last year’s service was attended by a former member of this place, Mr Graham Edwards. It was also attended by Keith Payne, a Victoria Cross winner and I believe the most highly decorated Vietnam veteran in this country. Keith Payne originates from Queensland, but he attended the service last year at that memorial site. Further to that, the garden of a community facility in close proximity is also dedicated to the memory of the Vietnam veterans from South Australia.

I use those examples simply to highlight how each memorial is of the utmost significance to the families and the communities associated with those the memorial commemorates. This bill enables people from all around Australia to apply to have memorials classified as memorials of national significance. Like the previous speaker, I do not suggest that they all will or should be classified. It will depend on whether the local communities wish to submit an application and there are clear guidelines, but there will be an opportunity to have those memorials nationally recognised. That is so important. This bill effectively elevates the significance of memorials throughout our communities—and rightly so.

Through my association with the organisations I mentioned earlier, I have come to know, respect and value the service men and women of this country. I have spoken with them at length about their service to this country. I have also seen the impact that that service has had on them and, at times, their families. I understand how important it is for them to be recognised through the establishment of a memorial—a permanent reminder for future generations of the people who have served this country. That is extremely important. It is not a big ask, but it is a measure that communities can take. I believe it goes a long way to saying to those people, ‘We very much value, we very much appreciate and we thank you for the service you gave to this country.’ Through the memorials we are able to do that. This bill provides an opportunity for communities right around Australia to do that. Many communities have memorials that are very significant for one reason or another, and they can have those memorials nationally recognised. As a society, I believe the memorials enable us to collectively express our gratitude to, our acknowledgment of and our support for the men and women who served and serve our country. The bill makes it clear that there are guidelines to assess any application for the classification of a memorial as a memorial of national significance. It ensures that the Ballarat memorial—which was perhaps the one that precipitated this bill—can be recognised as a memorial of national significance. More importantly, the bill tells the Australian community at large that we value the efforts and the commitments of the men and women who have served this country in the past, who serve it today and who will serve it in the future.