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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 5989

Mr SNOWDON (LingiariMinister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister for Defence Science and Personnel and Minister for Indigenous Health) (18:44): It is very important that we acknowledge this 70th anniversary. The importance of the battles of Crete and Greece in our own military history is not well understood, in my view. I certainly did not understand it until I went to Greece and Crete. Having now been there and read the history I understand what events took place and the sacrifices that were made not only by Australian, New Zealand, British and other allied troops but, most importantly, by the Greek nation and by the community in Crete. One of the remarkable aspects of this part of history is that, despite the severity of the treatment by the Germans, support for the Australians and New Zealanders in particular was profound. There is now an ongoing partnership and relationship with Crete—and with Greece more generally but with Crete in this particular case—as a result of those events. I commend the member for Hindmarsh for engaging himself as Chair of the Greek Australian Parliamentary Friendship Group. Very importantly, six veterans attended the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Crete: Daniel Bowden from HMAS Perth, Alfred Carpenter from the 2nd/4th Battalion, Basil Hayler from HMAS Perth, Arthur Leggett from the 2nd/11th Battalion, Norm Maddock from the 2nd/7th Battalion and George 'Bill' Taylor from the 2nd/11th Battalion. We need to appreciate the sacrifice that these men made. One of these gentlemen was 101 years old.

I commend the department, General Mark Kelly, who is now part of our organisation, and those who accompanied the veterans on the support they gave them, but I have to say that the stories we were told were more than payment for doing the work. It was such a pleasure to be with them and learn about them and their stories. We can take great pride in what they did. It was such an incredible privilege to be there and see how they were honoured by the Crete community. The member for Hindmarsh will remember that we called into a small roadside stop to have a toilet break and buy a cup of coffee. We selected some articles, went to pay and the owners refused to take our money—because of the significance and the salience of the presence of those men but particularly the history.

We went to the Preveli Monastery, which hid hundreds of Australian and New Zealand troops in the hills after the German forces took over and after Australian and New Zealand troops had disembarked on their way back to Egypt. This is important because they survived as a result of the support of not only this monastery but the population, who fed them, clothed them, warmed them, acted as their sentries and worked with them. Some of them worked as guerillas. That was really significant for me.

It was an enormous privilege to be there and a great honour to be with these men. I know the members for Hindmarsh and Maranoa have both travelled extensively. When you have the privilege of being in these locations, to see the honour with which Australian men who served in these past engagements are held as a result of their integrity and their work is outstanding.

Reg Saunders was the first Aboriginal officer and was at Crete at 42nd Street. I just had a chat to his daughter. She sent us a letter and indicated that apparently there is no memorial on 42nd Street to commemorate the involvement of the Anzacs. I want to establish whether that is true and then we might try to do something about it.