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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 728

Mr ZAPPIA (9:55 PM) —On Sunday, 30 January, I attended the annual memorial service held by the Para Districts Sub Branch of the National Servicemen’s Association of Australia. It was one of many services held around the country to commemorate National Service Day, which officially falls on 14 February each year. The service was led by Padre Trevor Rogers, himself a nasho, as they are affectionately referred to, and held at the Cross of Sacrifice site in Salisbury, where the local nashos have erected their own memorial. Cadets from the TS Stuart naval cadet unit and the 49th Australian Army Cadet Unit participated in the service. As patron of the Para Districts Sub Branch of the NSA, I regularly attend their events and consider the members as personal mates. I refer to the nashos—John Badcock, Graham Beagley, Gerry Bingham, Don Blackmore, Tony Cutler, John Fisk, Neil Hamilton, Tom Howells, Lawrie Hunter, Brenz Kriewaldt, Andrew Lafferty, Mick Lennon, Des McAuliffe, Kevin McQuillan, Clarrie Mitchell, Frank Morris, Noel Reid and John Rowe—who were all at the Salsbury service. I apologise if I have left anyone out.

Between 1951 and 1972, over 290,000 young Australian men were called up for compulsory national service in the Army, the Navy or the Air Force. Some 20,000 of them served in military operations in Borneo, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam. Nashos have their own special place in Australia’s history. In the first scheme, between 1951 and 1959, all young men aged 18 years were called up and were required to undertake 176 days of standard recruit training in the Navy, the Air Force or the Army. This was followed by five years in their respective reserves. In the second scheme, between 1965 and 1972, men aged 20 years were selected by a birthday ballot. Those selected were called up for two years full-time service. This was reduced to 18 months in 1971. National service was ended 38 years ago by the Whitlam government.

After the memorial service, I was asked to address the gathering. In doing so I commented on how quickly we move on from the past and how quickly events are consigned to history, yet how significant those events were to communities at the time. It is easy and perhaps convenient to forget that, in the case of the nashos, these were young men who had their lives disrupted, and in some cases changed for ever—sometimes for the better, sometimes for worse. They did not choose to enlist, although many, having been conscripted, volunteered to serve overseas and others remained in the defence forces after they had completed their national service training.

We sometimes forget the anxious wait for parents and family members, waiting to see if their sons would be called up and, if so, if they would be sent into a war zone. We often forget that 212 nashos died in active service and some 1,500 were wounded. Around 40 per cent of those killed in Vietnam were nashos, and we often forget how soldiers were treated by some people on their return home from Vietnam. We quite properly pay due respect in this place to each soldier we lose in Afghanistan. I take this opportunity to pay my respects and convey my condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Australia’s 23rd casualty in Afghanistan, 21-year-old South Australian Sapper Jamie Larcombe. It was a different era, but each nasho who died, like Sapper Jamie Larcombe, was also a young Australian life lost in serving our country.

The nashos, however, have not forgotten. Their experience was real, their service was real and their memories remain. As Clarrie Mitchell emotionally, but with dignity, stated as he placed his poppy at the Salisbury memorial: ‘This is for you, Percy’—referring to his late brother and fellow nasho. The camaraderie amongst them and their sense of humour is clearly evident to anyone who associates with them. What is also evident is that they do not seem to have any regrets about having been called up, and most of those I speak with talk positively about having served. In fact, there is a widespread view amongst nashos that all young men should undergo a similar kind of civic service to the country, and it should not necessarily have to be in the armed forces.

The construction of a national memorial in Canberra after eight years of design, fundraising and construction meant a lot to the nashos I spoke with. Many South Australian nashos, led by the state president and a personal friend, Graham Wilson, travelled to Canberra to be present for the official dedication ceremony on 8 September last year. I could not attend the dedication ceremony but I have since visited the memorial. It was a long time in its planning and construction, but it provides national recognition and respect to those Australians called up for national service between 1951 and 1972. Tonight I take this opportunity to recognise them.