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Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion.



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9 November 2000

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP TORRES STRAIT LIGHT INFANTRY BATTALION

Subjects: Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion

E&OE……………………………………………………………………………………

To my colleague Bruce Scott, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Assistant Defence Minister and Bill Heffernan and Ross Cameron and other parliamentary colleagues. I am quite delighted that for the first time some of the veterans of the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion and the widows of some of the former members of that battalion who either died in action or subsequently died, who’ve come down for the first time as a group for a Remembrance Day observance here in Canberra.

The history of your battalion is perhaps not as well known as it should be. It’s a fact that the enlistment rate in World War II of Torres Strait Islanders was amongst the highest, if not the highest, of any group of Australians. And the contribution that you made in the war against the Japanese is one that other Australians will always remember. And you played a very major role in much of the activity of the Australian Army in the Torres Strait area. The things that you did and the contribution you made to repelling the Japanese invasion was something that we will always remember.

I think it is important that as a group you are honoured in the national capital. There is a special quality about the life of the men and women of the Torres Strait islands and your distinctive contribution to indigenous culture in Australia is something that all Australians recognise. I’ve had a small sample of it today. I have a lot of experiences in this building - I don’t normally get greeted in such a warm and moving fashion. I think to substitute that singing for the hour and a half of Question Time would be a marvellous innovation. But as you all know, one of the many things that Australians are proud of is the contribution that our defence people made, our soldiers, sailors and airmen made in the two World Wars and in other conflicts, and the special contribution of the indigenous people of Australia is a very central element of that very important Australian tradition. Your light infantry battalion has a special place in that tradition.

I really am so pleased that I’ve had a few moments to come here to thank you on behalf of your fellow Australians for what you did to save us in World War II. The rest of the country is in your debt and it is so nice that you are able to come to Canberra and we are able in a very simple but sincere way say thank you and welcome you to the national capital. Thank you for your singing and I hope you all have a marvellous time here in Canberra. I’ve visited your part of the world on some occasions and I’ll have to get there again before long. Warren, of course, represents your interests with great vigour. He’s always talking about your interests down here and he does it with very, very great vigour and you really have a great representative in him. Ladies and gentlemen thank you again for the great contribution you’ve made to our country

and to its security and we’re delighted to have you among us.

Thank you.

[ends]

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