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Wednesday, 12 September 2012
Page: 10505

Ms O'DWYER (Higgins) (12:43): I would like to start by responding to the words of my colleague from across the chamber: 'the words are superfluous'. I beg to differ with him on only that one thing. I think it is so important that each of us in this place speak these words in honour of these great men who have made such a sacrifice for us. It is testament to their memory. It will be but cold comfort to their relatives and brothers in arms, but it is absolutely important for us here today. It is incredibly difficult to have to stand in this place and speak the names of men who have been lost in battle and who have been lost in war. It is even harder to have to do it twice in one day, and that is, unfortunately, what we are doing today.

We have already spoken about the terrible and tragic loss of Lance Corporal Stjepan Milosevic, Sapper James Martin and Private Robert Poate, and we must add to this most heartbreaking of lists Lance Corporal Mervyn McDonald and Private Nathanael Galagher. These two soldiers tragically lost their lives when their helicopter went down in Helmund. Lance Corporal Mervyn McDonald was clearly a superb soldier, highly decorated and valued. Lance Corporal McDonald was on his astounding 11th tour of duty. The awards bestowed upon him read long and varied and include: Australian Active Service Medal with Clasp East Timor and ICAT, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Australian Service Medal with Clasp East Timor, Timor-Leste and CT/SR, Australian Defence Medal, United Nations Mission in Support of East Timor Medal, Timor-Leste Solidarity Medal, NATO non-article 5 Medal with Clasp ISAF and Multiple Tour Indicator (2), Commander 1st Division Commendation, Infantry Combat Badge and Returned from Active Service Badge. Indeed, an incredible list of achievements.

In a statement by his fiance Rachael Sprigg -McKinnie, she wrote of the man, Lance Corporal McDonald, and his devotion to his family and his country. She stated:

Merv was the warmest guy you’d ever meet. You could see it in his eyes, they had a special sparkle.

He was a real Aussie bloke with a passion for his country, especially its natural splendour.

He is survived by his fiance Rachael, his mother Myrna and stepfather Bernie, and brothers Percy, Roger and Gary. We feel for them in their grief—grief that they will experience not only today but also in the days, weeks, months and years ahead. The gap in their lives will never be filled and our hearts go out to them.

Private Nathanael Galagher was on his second tour of duty as part of the Special Operations Task Group. Born in Wee Waa, New South Wales, in 1989, Private Galagher joined the Army in 2007. Described as a can-do kind of guy, he was highly respected amongst his colleagues. When a task needed to be done, we are told that Private Galagher was only too happy to oblige. Private Galagher loved to be in the presence of Lance Corporal McDonald, learning much off his superior and the experience he brought to the team. I have no doubt that he will continue to look out for Private Galagher as they both watch over us.

Private Galagher received the following honours and awards: Australian Active Service Medal with Clasp ICAT, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Australian Defence Medal, NATO non-article 5 Medal with Clasp ISAF and the Multiple Tour Indicator (2), Infantry Combat Badge and Returned from Active Service Badge. Private Galagher is survived by his partner Jessie, parents Wayne and Sally, and sister Elanor.

We thank these brave men for their service and wish their families the greatest of strength as they must deal with this tragic loss. We honour their memory in this place today. We will be forever indebted for their sacrifice to our country, for our freedoms and for the families that we hold dear. Lest we forget.