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Diggers welcomed home from Iraq.



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Minister for Defence Media Mail List -----------------------------------------------------------------------

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THE HON. JOEL FITZGIBBON MP Minister for Defence

Sunday, 20 July 2008 088/2008

DIGGERS WELCOMED HOME FROM IRAQ

Mr James Bidgood MP, representing the Minister for Defence, the Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP, today thanked those who served in Iraq at a Welcome Home parade and Family Centre relaunch event in Townsville on Sunday.

The parade recognised the contribution made by Defence personnel who have served with the Al Muthanna Task Group, the Overwatch Battle Group - West and the Australian Army Training Team in Iraq.

Mr Bidgood said that it was the professionalism and work ethic of our soldiers which left a positive impression on the Iraqi people and on the international community.

“We are so proud of our soldiers and their efforts. Over four years, 3500 Australian soldiers were involved with tasks such as the training of 33,000 Iraqi Security Force personnel and the transition of two provinces to Provincial Iraqi Control,” Mr Bidgood said.

Australia’s commitment to southern Iraq included the deployment of an infantry and cavalry battle group for more than three years and a dedicated training team for about four years.

“The return of our combat troops from Iraq is a significant moment in military history and, at a more local level, a significant moment for the soldiers’ families.”

“Seeing a soldier’s family reunited is a wonderful experience. We must also thank our Defence families, the Townsville community and facilities like Geckos which work to support them.”

Mr Bidgood also said it was fitting that the Geckos Family Centre relaunch coincided with the Welcome Home parade as families need extra support during deployments.

“Facilities like Geckos are very important to the wider Defence family. The recent refurbishment of this facility has created a more family-friendly place where we can further support our soldiers and families’ welfare,” Mr Bidgood said.

Geckos have a number of initiatives available for a wide variety of people. Defence families and individual soldiers can benefit from children’s play groups, family nights, personal development programs and, independent living skills courses for ADF gap year students; all of which are fully supported & conducted in conjunction with the Defence Community Organisation.

Today is the final of three welcome home events for soldiers deployed to Iraq. Welcome Home parades have also been held recently in Brisbane and Darwin.

Media contacts: Jack Smith (Joel Fitzgibbon): 02 6277 7800 or 0408 116 423 Defence Media Liaison: 02 6265 3343 or 0408 498 664

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