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Tuesday, 10 November 2015
Page: 8190


Senator PERIS (Northern Territory) (19:25): I rise tonight, on the eve of Remembrance Day, to pay tribute to our service men and women, past and present. After four years of conflict, at 11 am on 11 November 1918, guns fell silent after allied forces had driven German invaders back, and the Germans called an armistice so that a peace settlement could be reached. Tomorrow we mark the 97th anniversary of the armistice which ended the First World War.

I, along with many of my parliamentary colleagues, will be attending the Australian War Memorial here in Canberra to salute our armed forces. Together we will pause to remember more than 60,000 men and women who lost their lives and the 156,000 who were wounded, gassed or taken prisoner. We are all touched when a member of our Defence Force is killed in action. It is difficult to comprehend the grief associated with the loss at war of a parent, partner, child, brother or sister. Let us also make sure that we remember their families too.

Last Thursday, 5 November in Darwin, I had the absolute privilege of witnessing the exercising of the Freedom of Entry parade, marking the 50th anniversary of the 5th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment of the Australian Army serving our nation in peacetime and war. The 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment is stationed at Robertson Barracks in Darwin. The commanding officer is Lieutenant Colonel Paul Shields MBE. Paul and the 5th Battalion officers and men were magnificent last week, in hot and very humid conditions in the Top End. Troops carrying weapons marched through the city with military vehicles and their mascot—would you believe a real-life tiger called Corporal Quintus Rama.

On 5 November 50 years ago, 5th Battalion conducted their inaugural parade, which started their intensive training program prior to deploying to the Vietnam War. I was proud to attend the parade, which included many Territorian Vietnam veterans and more recent veterans who have also served our country in war and peace missions. We Territorians are rightly proud of our defence forces.

Also in attendance was our Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove. He said: 'Service, sacrifice and courage—that is what the men and women of the 5th Battalion know. This is what they've been made of for half a century.'

The Governor-General has a strong personal connection with Darwin, as he was a company commander with the then 5th/7th Battalion. He flew into Darwin to assist with the clean-up after the 1974 Cyclone Tracy devastation. He said: 'When much of Darwin was blown away by the devastating force of Cyclone Tracy, this Battalion, then known as 5/7RAR, was among the first army units on the scene providing emergency services, spearheading the clean-up and helping the city and its people pick up the pieces and get their lives back together.' His Excellency reminded us how he was able to observe, back in 1974, the affection that grew from that day forward between the people of Darwin and the service men and women of the Australian Army.

The 5th Battalion is part of the 1st Brigade based in the Top End, and Brigadier Mick Ryan is the Commander of the 1st Brigade. Brigadier Ryan has spoken of the battalion's work in peace and war, including multiple deployments to Vietnam and the Middle East. Brigadier Ryan said he envisaged that members from the 5th Battalion will go to Iraq in the very near future, and we wish them well.

I met some older veterans last week, including Brian Schafer and the Army's inaugural Indigenous elder, Uncle Roy Mundine. A Bundjalung man, Uncle Roy had a distinguished 36-year Army career, enlisting in 1958. Both were in Darwin for the Freedom of Entry parade. They both served with the 5th Battalion in South Vietnam.

I also want to acknowledge my own family who have served this great country. My great-grandfather Jack Knox served with the 2/16th battalion AIF on the Kokoda Trail. My sister, Venessa, served for 10 years in the Australian Army before moving to Liberia with the United Nations as a movements control logistics officer. She spent seven years in the Ivory Coast, including through their civil war in 2011. She now lives in Monrovia, Liberia. This is her 13th year serving in the United Nations. My stepfather, Les 'Chappie' Chapman, toured Vietnam twice as a young lad in the Royal Australian Navy.

Finally, I want to pay tribute to the hundreds, or perhaps I should say thousands, of families around the country who support our defence forces, who keep the home fires burning for when their loved ones return home. To our brave men and women who fought for freedom and to those who continue to serve to protect our country on a daily basis, we thank you. Lest we forget.