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Investiture, Canberra, Friday, 18 September 1998: address on the occasion [morning]

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First of all, I warmly welcome you all to “Yarralumla” for today’s investiture. In particular, I would say how honoured we are to have with us all those whose achievements are being recognised by an award within the Australian Honours system. The presence, among other distinguished guests, of Ms Annette Ellis, representing the Federal Leader of the Opposition, senior representatives of the General Staff, the three Services, and the Order of Australia, and Brigadier David Buring, National Secretary of the Order of Australia Association is a tribute to those whom we are gathered to honour.

You may have noticed that today we are holding two investitures, this one this morning and another one in the afternoon. Needless to say, the two investitures are of equal importance and, subject to some adjustments to meet individual problems or to ensure an appropriate spread, the division of recipients has been effected on an alphabetical basis.

Until 1975 Australia did not have its own identifiable system of honours and awards but honoured its citizens for achievement or outstanding service by awards within the British system. In February 1975 the Queen, acting on the advice of the Australian Government, approved the institution of the Order of Australia as “an Australian Society of Honour for according recognition to Australian citizens and other persons for achievement or for meritorious service”. Simultaneously, and again acting on Australian advice, Her Majesty instituted the Australian Bravery decoration to recognise acts of bravery and the national medal for Diligent Service by members of designated services.

These awards were followed over the years by the introduction of awards for gallantry in the face of the enemy; for distinguished; conspicuous and nursing service; for police, fire and public service; and for service in the armed forces in action and in designated theatres.

This Australian system of honours and awards has been established in order to recognise the contribution of Australians in the many areas of our national life and


endeavour, whether military or civilian. The honours and awards serve two main purposes. The first is to reward, not by pecuniary benefit but by national honour, those who have made an outstanding contribution to our national life. The second,

and possibly more important, purpose is to define, encourage and reinforce national standards, national aspirations and national ideals by acknowledging past action or achievements and by identifying appropriate role models. It is by doing those things that our honours system works most effectively to encourage achievement and improve standards in our community.

Included in the awards being conferred today are bravery awards to two citizens whose selfless acts in risking their own lives in the most dangerous of circumstances resulted in either the saving of life or the prevention of tragedy and destruction of property.

In presenting these bravery awards I would like to particularly welcome Professor Valerie Pratt, AM, Chairman of the Australian Bravery Decorations Council.

The underlying principle of our bravery awards system is to recognise by an appropriate award a person’s deliberate action to overcome fear in order to selflessly help in the face of danger. Both of the people receiving bravery awards today acted in the face of very dangerous circumstances, enhanced by their own knowledge and awareness of the degree of risks involved.

I make particular mention of Mr Allan Sparkes who is being invested with the Cross of Valour. The Cross of Valour is Australia’s highest bravery award subordinate only in the Australian Honours System to the Victoria Cross for Australia. This is only the third award of the Cross of Valour since the introduction of the Australian bravery awards system.

Finally, I wish to mention the great pleasure and pride which I personally feel today in investing a number of Vietnam veterans with their awards under the End of War List which was recently issued on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Government. These awards include the Medal for Gallantry, the Distinguished

Service Medal, and the Commendation for Distinguished Service, all part of Australia’s System of Honours and Awards.

Australia’s debt to all who served in our country’s forces in Vietnam in the most arduous and hazardous circumstances cannot be over-stated. I sincerely hope these awards will augment other comparatively recent events in helping redress past inadequacies in the acknowledgment of those who died and those who fought in our

nation” service in Vietnam.

I now invite the Official Secretary, Mr Bonsey, to commence formal proceedings.