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Monday, 26 November 2018
Page: 11532


Ms SHARKIE (Mayo) (18:42): This Remembrance Day we commemorated the Centenary of Armistice Day, a day when we honour the spirit of our service personnel. We are reminded of their sacrifice, a sacrifice made on our behalf and one deserving of our nation's respect and gratitude. I'm very grateful to my team, who represented our office right across the electorate. I attended a service in Langhorne Creek, down the very bottom of my electorate. Prior to attending the service I drove a 1954 Massey Ferguson, raising money for Legacy, from Milang to Langhorne Creek, and that was quite a feat.

This year marked 25 years since the Unknown Soldier was laid to rest at the Australian War Memorial, on 11 November 1993. Those of you who have visited the memorial will have been struck by the words etched into the foot of the Unknown Soldier's tomb:

He is all of them. And he is one of us.

Our veterans are not confined to the pages of well-worn textbooks or some romantic notion captured on the silver screen. Our veterans are our grandparents, our parents, our sons, our daughters, our husbands, our wives. They are our past, our present and indeed our future.

If we look to the past, the statistics can be difficult to comprehend. For example, in the First World War alone, over 150,000 service personnel were wounded, gassed or taken prisoner, with 60,000 never to return home to their families. It's not until we speak to our older Australians that we actually get a sense of the grief and loss that rippled through our communities after every conflict. As the memories of our older Australians fade, the importance of Remembrance Day, I believe, grows. The Australian War Memorial plays a vital role in ensuring that our young Australians understand the meaning of Remembrance Day and that we as a nation continue to honour and respect the sacrifices made by young men and women 100 years ago and over the last 100 years. While not every family can afford to make the long trip to Canberra, the virtual war memorial is a South Australian RSL initiative that seeks to do just that. It brings to life the history of service personnel using technology to share their stories with the next generation.

We know that the challenges that face many of our service men and women often follow them home from deployment and into civilian life. South Australia, through Veterans SA, was a key driver in recognising transition from the military as a priority issue for ADF personnel and their families. Successful transition is a significant, mitigating factor in avoiding challenging post-service issues such as homelessness, incarceration, broken families, mental health and wellbeing issues. Looking after our veterans must be a priority. And, with what we now know about mental health and post-traumatic stress, we must do better. The Jamie Larcombe Centre in Adelaide adopts a model of care that offers inpatient and outpatient care and programs, research, and a partnership hub that helps veterans and their families to connect with ex-service organisations and community groups to provide support to assist recovery from mental illness.

In excess of 70,000 ADF personnel have been deployed on global operations since our involvement in Timor-Leste in 1999. We must position ourselves to be able to address the needs of these service personnel as they transition from the ADF and look to new careers as they move into retirement. We can't allow them to fall into a chasm. We need to ensure that we treat our veterans properly and provide them with a full complement of services for a successful transition. I commend the Minister for Veterans' Affairs on the work he has done so far, as outlined in last month's veterans' statement, but we must ensure that we learn from the mistakes of the past and that we treat our veterans and their families with the respect they so richly deserve. It was a great honour to attend the service in Langhorne Creek. It was a very small but very meaningful service, and I would like to thank all of the RSLs right across my community for putting on poignant and moving Remembrance Day services right across the Mayo electorate.