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Thursday, 23 March 1961

On the 21st of October last, I forwarded to you a letter in which I advised you of the forthcoming ceremony of the unveiling of the Athens Memorial in the Phaleron War Cemetery, Greece, by His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester on the 10th May, 1961.

I can now inform you that arrangements have been made by the Australian Commonwealth Government for a small Official Party, including close relatives, to be present at the ceremony. All costs of transport and hotel accommodation will be borne by the Government, including travel from places of residence to Sydney and return for those relatives who are selected to comprise this Party.

The Official Party will depart from Sydney by Qantas Empire Airways on Sunday, 7th May, 1961, and will return to Sydney on Monday, 15th May, 1961.

This Commission has been requested by the Commonwealth Government to co-ordinate the arrangements and to ascertain the names of those relatives who desire to be considered in the selection of the Official Party.

If you desire to submit your name for consideration, I should be glad if you would complete the enclosed form and return it to this office not later than 20th February, 1961.

Naturally, every widow and every mother who received one of those letters and who submitted her name for consideration hoped that she would be one of the official party, although the letter concluded in the following manner: -

It should be clearly understood that the submission of the application form is not a guarantee of selection to be a member of the Official Party. It is intended that the return of the completed form will serve to ascertain the names of those who could make the pilgrimage, if they should be selected.

One widow in my electorate, who had applied for selection and had heard nothing, made inquiries last week and was told that the party had already been selected and that her application has not been successful. She was most upset. From the inquiries I have made, I understand that the official party comprises only four persons - first, a government representative, whom I understand to be a military officer; secondly, a member of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia, who served in Greece; thirdly and fourthly, one widow and one parent of a serviceman whose name appears on the Athens Memorial. I have been told that the names of 782 Australian servicemen appear on that memorial. So honorable members will appreciate that the chances of selection were very slim indeed.

I raise this matter to-night for only two reasons; first, so that the widow who approached me will not feel quite so badly when she realizes that only one widow was selected, not 20 or 30 as she might have imagined; and secondly, in the hope that in similar circumstances in the future a better method will be worked out to handle the situation. I believe that a ballot could have been conducted first and perhaps twenty names selected, in order to allow for people who could not take advantage of the offer, and only the successful applicants notified. I realize that whatever method is adopted some difficulties could arise, but I believe that the commission could have given publicity to its intention to conduct a ballot through the medium of the press and the Australian Broadcasting Commission and that it could have informed the relatives of the servicemen that only two names would be chosen. If that had been done, it might have avoided distress to some of these people.

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