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Dan Tehan discusses 50th anniversary of the battle of Long Tan -

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LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Vietnam veterans have today marked the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan. Hundreds of people turned out at the Australian War Memorial and more than 1,000 veterans travelled to Vietnam although the commemorations there were curtailed after a last minute ban by the Vietnamese Government. In the end it allowed small groups to attend the site of the battle.

Long Tan was the single largest loss of Australian life during the Vietnam conflict.

A short time ago, the Veterans' Affairs Minister Dan Tehan joined me from the Enoggera Army Barracks in Brisbane.

Minister, thanks for your time.

I wanted to ask first of all about the decision yesterday of the Vietnamese government to limit the commemoration in Vietnam. Has there been any further discussion about that and can you shed any light on why that happened at the last minute like that?

DAN TEHAN, MINISTER FOR VETERANS' AFFAIRS: Well, we were advised by the Vietnamese government that it was due to sensitivities in Vietnam.

There wasn't a lot of advice provided to us and I must say, the most deeply concerning thing about it was that the advice was provided to us at very short notice.

LEIGH SALES: And is there going to be some further investigation and discussion about that?

DAN TEHAN: Look, our focus has rightly been on making sure that we focused on the commemorations here in Australia and also ensuring that as many veterans and members of their families could get access to the site at Long Tan today.

Now, going forward, we will have to have discussions with the Vietnamese government because I think it's very important that we get an understanding on both sides about what are the requirements for us to be able to continue to go to Vietnam to commemorate the Battle of Long Tan and also Vietnam Veterans' Day.

Well, I think he is the best person to put that case and he explained it that they went, they fought but it was the welcome home which really, in many ways, set them apart.

They weren't welcomed like previous generations had, and that left a scar which only today we're beginning to properly heal.

LEIGH SALES: So do you think that process is really just beginning today? Do you sense there are still some deeply-held feelings about that?

DAN TEHAN: Well, I think it's really a question that must be answered by the veterans themselves, but I think as a community, we have come an extremely long way when it comes to recognising the service and sacrifice that was made by the nearly 60,000 Australians who fought in the Vietnam War.

I think that what we have done in marking the 50th commemoration has helped significantly in that, but in the end, it will be the veterans themselves who will ultimately be the deciders as to whether we, as a nation, are continuing to pause and respectfully recognising the contribution that they made now 50 years ago.

LEIGH SALES: As you point out, it was very, very controversial at the time and whether Australia should have been there and all of the rest of it. What do you think is the legacy of the Vietnam War 50 years on?

DAN TEHAN: Look, I think that the legacy here in Australia is of, is of men and women who came back here and who made sure in one way or the other that they have left their mark on our society and on our community.

And if you look at it, it's been done in various ways.

We have a Governor-General who is a Vietnam veteran. We had members of our Parliament who have been Vietnam veterans.

We have had others who have committed their lives to ex-services organisations, who have headed RSLs, and we had others, for instance, who embarked on making sure that mental health treatment was available to those who had returned through the veterans, and veteran's families counselling service, which now plays a crucial role in providing services to our veterans.

LEIGH SALES: We know that it took a long time for Vietnam veterans to get those sort of supports in the numbers they needed. We now have war veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. A weekend newspaper report drew the attention to the fact, that more servicemen and women who've returned from Iraq and Afghanistan have now committed suicide than died in both those battle fields.

That is surely a national indictment.

DAN TEHAN: So suicide and suicide prevention is something as a society we must continue to deal with and must continue to make sure we're putting all the programs in place to give the assistance that we need to prevent suicide, to prevent self-harm.

Now, if you look at what the army has done or, sorry, what our Defence Force has done over the last 10 years, they have put in place a lot of measures and a lot of programs and the latest analysis is that if you, if you serve, you're about a third less likely to commit suicide than what people are in the general community.

When it comes to the veterans' community, we're looking to do much more work in this space.

One of the things that the Government announced a couple of weeks ago was of the $192 million commitment to suicide prevention that we gave as an election commitment, some of that will go to Townsville where we're setting up a suicide prevention and self-harm prevention trial site.

We have also made sure that we have changed the way we deal with these issues when it comes to those who have served. There is now non-liability cover for PTSD for mental health, for alcoholism, for drug abuse, for depression.

So you don't have to prove anything anymore, those services are just available.

We need to do more and we will be doing more but it's something that, as a society, we all have to confront and make sure that we're dealing with across the board.

LEIGH SALES: Dan Tehan, thank you very much for your time.

DAN TEHAN: Thank you, Leigh