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Monday, 22 July 2019
Page: 419

Ms SWANSON (Paterson) (11:03): The people who serve our nation in the Australian Defence Force make an invaluable contribution to the safety and the prosperity of our nation. They put their lives on the line to protect and serve. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to recognise them and thank them for their service today.

I'd also like to extend my thanks to the member for Fisher for raising this important topic. He and I, as members of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, had the opportunity to travel to the Avalon airshow and look at some of the incredible skills that the members of the Australian Defence Force acquire. We witnessed air-to-air refuelling and many other really specific and specialised skills that those people need to take on in order to provide the service to us that they do. Those people are absolutely vital to RAAF Base Williamtown, which is located almost exactly in the centre of my electorate.

Since I was elected in 2016, I've been fortunate enough to have had firsthand experience looking at the lives and service of service men and women who serve at RAAF Base Williamtown—both the sacrifices they make and the contribution they make to our community. Thousands of people call RAAF Base Williamtown home, and work. It's not unique to see a person in uniform picking up the kids from school, buying a coffee at the local coffee shop or dropping things off, as the day progresses, to family and friends throughout our community. It's not uncommon to hear the sound of world-class jets flying overhead.

And it is an incredibly special thing to see them up close. Events such as Anzac Day and Remembrance Day are made especially significant by the incredible number of people who come together to remember, recognise and thank our past and present ADF members. Our celebrations in Port Stephens are particularly poignant, when you see serving defence members en masse, there to recognise the importance of such days to all of us in our community. But it really does bring it home when you see a large group of people in uniform on Anzac Day.

The families of our Defence Force, as the member for Lingiari noted just a moment ago, are the buttresses, though. They are the people they return home to, whom they are able to confide in and download some of those pressures of the work of the Australian Defence Force—mothers, fathers and siblings, who support their kids as they travel across Australia and the world, eagerly awaiting a phone call or a return home visit. Husbands, wives and children who move from base to base, from town to town, are forced to pack up the house, unpack the house, make new friends at school and find new doctors and dentists. These are things that many of us just take for granted, but it's not until you've lived that lifestyle that you realise just how difficult it can be for family members to make those sacrifices and really turn their world upside down so that our world can be just that bit safer.

There are some fantastic community programs in Williamtown for those families who are being relocated to our area. We have a great community in Port Stephens that really understands the pressures of defence families and welcomes them in. We're used to welcoming people in, and I'm so proud that our local community does that, with such eagerness and tenderness. Tomaree Education Centre has a great program for children of defence personnel to help them make that transition. If you've ever been somewhere and realised how difficult it is to make friends—well, this program makes it easier for people to do so. So, I wanted to especially mention them and say thankyou for that.

I also want to quickly give a special mention to Senior Australian Defence Force Officer Group Captain Peter Cluff—Cluffy, you do an amazing job—and to Air Commodore Barbara Courtney, who recently took over the Surveillance and Response Group from Air Commodore Craig Heap. Welcome, Barbara; thank you, Heapy, for what you've done for our base—and thank you to everyone who serves in the Australian Defence Force.