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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9096


Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:00): Last Saturday, 18 August, was Vietnam Veterans Day, and this year, 50 years since Australia's war in Vietnam began, Vietnam Veterans Day is a particularly important day. Eighteen Australians died at Long Tan, but they did not die in defeat. Long Tan stands tall in our memory, and we do not forget. Its anniversary stands for every Australian who served and suffered in Vietnam. We remember them all every 18 August. In 1969, on the third anniversary of that dreadful day, their mates remembered them: many Australians will be familiar with the moving image of bare-chested diggers erecting a cross at the battle site. After the war, the Long Tan cross was removed from the site by the Vietnamese authorities, but they kept it safe. In 1989, in a remarkable gesture of remembrance and reconciliation, the Long Dat District People's Committee erected a replica cross on the original site. This year, we are very grateful to the government of Vietnam for lending the original Long Tan cross to the Australian War Memorial. It is on display there today and, of course, it is a symbol of supreme sacrifice.

It is 50 years this year since the fateful decision to send Australian advisers to Vietnam, and it is 25 years since hundreds of thousands of Australians cheered and applauded tens of thousands of Vietnam veterans in the 1987 welcome home parade. It was one of the Hawke government's finest days.

I am proud of everything our nation has done in the 25 year since to honour our Vietnam veterans—proud of the haunting and magnificent Australian Vietnam National Memorial on Anzac Parade right here in Canberra; of the work we have done to enable our veterans to visit the battlefields and places of Vietnam where they fought for us; of the Australian contribution to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC which I opened last year. I am proud of everything the Vietnam generation of veterans is doing now to care for the ageing veterans who served before them, and I am so proud of what the Vietnam generation is doing for the young veterans who are coming home now. They are literally caring for their fathers and caring for their sons. Today we remember them all and thank them for it all. Lest we forget.

Honourable members: Lest we forget.