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Monday, 26 November 2018
Page: 11504

Mr GOSLING (Solomon) (16:52): I want to support the motion and commend the member for Dawson for it. I also acknowledge Australia's Victoria Cross winner Keith Payne, his service to our nation and his continuing service helping veterans. We take our hats off to all those Vietnam veterans who really paved the way for VVCS, for the support not only that the Vietnam veterans receive through that service but that their families, importantly, also receive.

As the son of a Vietnam veteran, and being a member of the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia NT as a service member—obviously not a Vietnam veteran—I want to acknowledge that organisation. In particular, I acknowledge the current president, Bob Shewring, a Vietnam veteran who, in a first for Australia, removed the word 'Vietnam' from the name of the organisation in order to become more inclusive of younger veterans. They are now Veterans Australia NT, and I commend them for doing that.

The change of name from VVCS, as we've always known it, to Open Arms has been met with—dare I say it!—open arms. I want to recognise all those that do that important counselling and support work for our serving and former serving people and their families. I want to also quickly acknowledge the younger veterans and the work that they're doing to support their brother and sister comrades. Recently we had the great success of the Invictus Games and I want to acknowledge again the competitors that went from Darwin: Sonya Newman, Tom Foster and Samantha Gould. I also want to acknowledge people like Mark Reidy from The Road Home, in Adelaide, whose Invictus Pathways program—from the time that I spent there looking at the effect that it was having in that community—is a great thing.

When it comes to veterans affairs, we like to think—we hope—that there is always bipartisan support for our veterans. I'm proud of some of the initiatives that Labor has already announced. I'm glad that the Military Covenant is receiving bipartisan support but I will say that it's important that there's going to be regular reporting to parliament on how we're meeting our commitment to veterans through that covenant. The $120 million Veterans' Employment Program that the member for Kingston has announced is really important, as well. Jobs are crucial. It's not just about financial security. It's about structure, it's about community sense of purpose, it's about belonging and it is also about workplaces—companies, not for profits and governments—having awesome employees, which former service members, if I do say so myself, tend to be.

In Darwin, the capital of the North, I haven't just been talking. For years now I've been working with my colleagues and I have been consulting with our veterans and their families and with the first responder community. I am very proud that the member for Kingston joined me during this last couple of weeks to announce that federal Labor, in government, will commit $4.9 million to the Scott Palmer Centre, which will provide first responders and former and current serving defence members and their families with the support that they need. If there's one thing that I am keenly aware of, it's the fact that up until now we have not had enough support for our people and some of our people and their family members have been falling through the cracks. I'm really thankful also to the family of Scott Palmer. Scott was a commando with 2nd Commando Regiment and was killed in Afghanistan. His parents, Ray and Pam, continue to this day to put in so much time and effort, and they are literally saving lives. To hear Pam say how proud she was that now—should the Scott Palmer Centre go ahead, and we really hope it does—our young men and women will have the support that they need in Darwin.