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Public urged to farewell returning diggers of New Guinea campaign



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ΜΕΡΙΑ RELEASET he H on C on S ciacca MP M in is t e r for V e t e r a n s ' A ffairs C34/95 25 June, 1995

Public Urged To Farewell Returning Diggers o f New Guinea Campaign!!! The historic Australia Remembers Pilgrimage to Papua New Guinea - including 117 veterans and war widows - sets sail from Sydney Harbour next

Thursday to commemorate the most important campaign in Australia's history.

The Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Con Sciacca, announced the Federal Government sponsored Pilgrimage group today and urged as many people as possible to be part of the farewell for the veterans from Sydney Cove Passenger Terminal from 10am on 29 June, 1995.

Mr Sciacca said the Pilgrimage would leave Sydney Harbour aboard the cruise ship Mikhail Sholokhov, evoking memories of the troopships that set sail more than 50 years ago to defend Australia and its Allies from enemy attacks.·

"The farewell will be a gala event witii the NSW Police Concert Band, a parade of WWII uniforms, Tri Services Guard and the Townsville Army Band building the atmosphere for what will be one of the highlights of the Australia Remembers program," he said.

"I hope that as many Sydneysiders as possible will attend the farewell so they show their gratitude to those brave men and women who halted the threat to Australia of invasion so many years ago.

"The Pilgrimage group is made up of 86 former soldiers, 14 airmen, 10 sailors, a coastwatcher, merchant mariner and nurse - representing all States and Territories - who served in New Guinea during World War Π. In addition, the group will be accompanied by four war widows whose husbands fought in New

Guinea.

"This will be the first time that many of these men and women have returned to PNG since the end of the war and it is expected to be an emotional experience for them," he said. Mr Sciacca said the veterans and war widows were a representative Pilgrimage group and so far as practicable reflected the

composition of Australian units which fought in the region. . . . 2 /

Mr Sciacca said the Pilgrimage would commemorate all those that served in New Guinea and remember those fallen Australian servicemen and women. "Most importantly, this Pilgrimage will bring into shaip focus the importance of the New Guinea campaign to many young Australians who know veiy little

about the events of the War in the Pacific."

He said the Pilgrimage would ensure that stories behind names such as Kolcoda, Buna, Gona, Wewak, Rabaul and Milne Bay were told to the Australian public. The veterans will visit memorials, cemeteries and battlefields in towns and

regions where they fought and endured horrendous conditions.

Mr Sciacca said in addition to the PNG Pilgrimage, a separate "Australia Remembers" Pilgrimage to Indonesia, Borneo and Singapore - including 38 veterans and war widows - will leave from July 6, 1995.

"The Pilgrimage to Indonesia, Singapore and Borneo consists of 24 soldiers, five airmen, four sailors, two nurses, a merchant mariner and two war widows. All these men and women served in the regions during World War Π and represent the units that served there."

Mr Sciacca said while he was aware that many veterans who missed out on the selection would be disappointed, tire Pilgrimage group could only ever be a representative sample. Those that were selected were representing all their mates. "I wish I could take them all but obviously that's not practical," he said.

Media Adviser: Amanda Lampe (06) 277 7820 (W)

(0411)241 356 (06) 273 3966 (H)