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Address to the Vietnam Veterans' Remembrance Day service, Canberra.



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18 August 2009

Address to the Vietnam Veterans’ Remembrance Day Service

Canberra

Today we gather to recognise courage.

Today we gather to recognise sacrifice.

Today we gather to recognise mateship.

We honour the service of all 60,000 Australians who served in the Vietnam War.

We remember the sacrifice of the 521 Australians who lost their lives in this conflict.

We remember, too, those who were wounded in battle.

And we remember those who today still bear the scars of war.

When you talk to these veterans about what they did for their country, most of them in my

experience, shrug their shoulders and say simply: “I was just doing my job.”

Today, I would say to each and every one of them, and each and every one of you gathered

here today, that the Australian Government and the Australian people thank you for a job well

done.

Today we also remember Private David Fisher, whose remains were brought home from the

dense jungle of Vietnam last September.

And we remember Flying Officer Michael Herbert and Pilot Officer Robert Carver, the final two

Australians missing in action in Vietnam.

It is right that as a people we never give up in the search for those we have lost in battle fields

Speech

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abroad.

For they and their earthly remains are a part of us. They are part of our soil - the soil from

which they have sprung, the soil from which we have sprung, the soil that is Australia.

And their spirit remains with us still and will be so forever more.

A spirit which speaks to us down the ages and down this great avenue of heroes - an avenue

which honours our heroes from the trenches of ANZAC, an avenue which honours those who

still fight in the mountain passes of Afghanistan.

A spirit which says to us today a simple thing, but a profound thing - that service and sacrifice

for others are the heart and soul of any nation that lays claim to greatness.

Thank you to the dedicated and selfless work of so many Australians in having our last

Australians missing in action returned home. It is because of their work that we are able to

complete this unfinished work of the nation, and I thank you most sincerely.

With their homecoming later this month, there will no doubt be much sadness, mingled with

some measure of comfort for those who have waited so very long for their return.

We thank the families of all veterans for their bravery and compassion in supporting their loved

ones down the years, because much support was needed for those who made it home.

For too long, their fears that their health problems connected to their service in Vietnam were

ignored or flatly denied. These were their fears, and fears which continue still today.

Last year, the Australian Government launched the Vietnam Veterans’ Family Study.

This $11.5 million study aims to help identify health problems that may have occurred as a

result of service in Vietnam, along with protective factors and characteristics that help build

resilience on the part of the families of veterans as well.

We asked Vietnam veterans, other servicemen and women, their children, their step-children,

nieces and nephews, partners and ex-partners to take part.

I am pleased to be able to confirm today that we have now attained the minimum required

numbers of volunteers to ensure that the key parts of this broad survey, this broad study, can

now proceed.

This has been long and arduous work, and I thank all of our friends and partners in the Vietnam

veterans’ community for assisting us in it.

This family study, this family survey, will allow the scientific evaluation of the impacts on the

children and other family members of your service in Vietnam.

This is the right thing to do for Australia, because you the soldiers of Australia, were sent

abroad in all our names - sent abroad in all our names

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Our single, our great, and our important purpose today is to honour you, to honour those who

did not return, and to honour those who continue today to bear the scars of war in Australia’s

name.

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