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Thursday, 29 October 1964

Senator MORRIS (Queensland) .- I wish to address a few remarks to Division No. 400 - Administrative, and more particularly to sub-division 5 - Grants-in-Aid. The appropriations set out in sub-division 5 show that a great deal of help is given to many worthy organisations in Australia. Assistance is also given to some organisations outside Australia. 1 believe that in each case the assistance given is very desirable because it is improving the image of Australia in the eyes of people at home or overseas. I believe that another organisation of high repute which has been formed in Australia should be included in the list of appropriations in sub-division 5. I refer to the Royal Air Force Escaping Society. To give honorable senators some idea of the standing of this organisation, I point out that the patron is Air Marshal Sir Frederick Scherger and the President is Air Chief Marshal Sir Basil Embry. This organisation is well known in Australia and overseas. I propose to appeal for some assistance to be given to the organisation. To do so I must first explain a little more fully what the organisation is, and I shall do so quite briefly.

In 1945, when the Royal Air Force Escaping Society was formed under its first President, Marshal of the Royal Air Force Viscount Portal of Hungerford, 500 subscribing members pledged .themselves to remember tangibly as a lifelong bond the gallantry and self-sacrifice of those citizens in occupied countries who risked frightful torture and death to save some 2,000 Allied airmen who escaped in Europe or in the Pacific area. Only a few of those citizens have ever received token recognition in £ha way of awards and decorations from the governments concerned. The Escaping Society itself does not receive any financial assistance in its work from any official or governmental source. At this very moment there are 500 urgent cases of poverty, illness and distress which have been studied and verified. Many of these people are aging and their children are in dire need. The Escaping Society firmly believes that our national honour is involved and it is determined, with the help of the generous Australian public, partly to honour a duty to these heroic people.

In various countries quite a large number of our own airmen were saved. Some were helped to escape and to return to their home bases, and they continued to fight as airmen as a result of the work that was done by residents of the various countries concerned. As I said, many of these residents faced grave danger and suffered grave hardship. They were in danger of losing their lives. Airmen who were assisted to escape have pledged themselves to help those who helped them during the war. As a result, they give of their money anc* activity to carry on this work. If Austral!) owes a debt to anybody at all, it certainly owes a debt to those people who were responsible for returning our airmen to our own shores. A large number of these airmen are doing a great deal of work in this direction in a voluntary capacity.

Those men are seeking to provide this year, if at all possible, about £10,000 towards this work. They have made an appeal throughout Australia for help. This is a very worthy cause, and I know a great deal of help is being given by generous Australians who are sympathetic. My personal belief is that this work should be the responsibility not only of those individuals who gave a great deal in service in the Air Force during the war. I should like to see the Australian Government accept some responsibility in the matter. This organisation should be given some help from Commonwealth funds. The most satisfactory form of assistance would be a donation to match the amount of money that is raised by the organisation itself. I suggest that if the organisation raised £5,000 or £10,000, the Government should match that sum and so assist the organisation to carry on its great philanthropic work which it regards as one of national honour and which we all should regard in the same light.

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