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Thursday, 18 August 2005
Page: 110

Mr TICEHURST (4:52 PM) —I rise this evening to take a moment on Vietnam Veterans Day to remember the 59,000 Australians who served during the Vietnam War and the 520 who died. I encourage all Australians to do the same. Vietnam Veterans Day on 18 August is a time to reflect on the service and sacrifice of the men and women who served in Vietnam and to reaffirm our commitment to the freedom and peace they fought for. Vietnam Veterans Day is a day we remember the 18 Australians who died at Long Tan and restate our gratitude for their sacrifice and the legacy of their courage.

 Our military involvement in Vietnam lasted more than 10 years, making it the longest in Australia’s wartime history. However, for many Vietnam veterans and their families, the aftermath has been longer lasting and often difficult. The Vietnam War was unique in many ways. While all three services were involved and served with distinction, it was predominantly a hard and bitter ground war. From mid-1965 to late 1971, nine battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment served a total of 16 twelve-month tours of duty in Vietnam and an extensive array of support arms accompanied them. The level of Army involvement was reflected in the casualty figures. The Australian Army suffered 96 per cent of all the Australian casualties in Vietnam.

The nature of their service in Vietnam meant Australian soldiers endured longer periods in contact or imminent risk of contact with the enemy than at any time since the Gallipoli campaign in 1915. In the battle of Long Tan, 108 Australian infantrymen of D-Company, 6th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, encountered an enemy force of more than 2,500 in a rubber plantation north of Long Tan. Although clearly outnumbered, the Australians held firm against the enemy force through a remarkable display of courage and determination.

The Australian government named its Long Tan bursary scheme in honour of the Australians who served and the 18 men who died in the Battle of Long Tan. The Long Tan bursary scheme recognises the need to assist Australian Vietnam veterans’ children to make the sometimes difficult transition to post-secondary education. Applications for the bursary open on Vietnam Veterans Day, with 30 bursaries of $6,000 each available to help eligible students with the cost of their tertiary education. I encourage the children of Vietnam veterans who are planning to enrol in their first full year of tertiary education and who need financial help to apply.

To conclude, it is so important that we ensure future generations of Australians will always remember such dedicated service in the face of adversity and respectfully pay tribute to the sacrifices of those who gave their lives in Vietnam. We must also honour those who came home and who still bear the deep scars of their service. I was involved in the call-up in 1965. Fortunately, I did not go to Vietnam, but many of my mates did. I remember visiting some of them in the hospital in Holsworthy after they were injured in the field. Some of these people have since passed on, but we owe a great deal to them. It is up to us and future generations to really remember their service.