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Speech for the occasional address of the Reserve Forces Day Service, Canberra.



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SPEECH BY HIS EXCELLENCY

MAJOR GENERAL MICHAEL JEFFERY AC CVO MC (Retd) GOVERNOR-GENERAL OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA OCCASIONAL ADDRESS RESERVE FORCES DAY SERVICE

AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL, CANBERRA SUNDAY 27 JUNE, 2004

Senator Gary Humphries, representing the Prime Minister Senator Kate Lundy, representing the Leader of the Opposition Mr Brendan Smyth, MLA Service Chief and Cadet Representatives Distinguished guests Currently serving and past members of the Reserves on parade today Ladies and gentlemen

As a young Duntroon graduate who first cut his teeth in a leadership sense in command of a National Service platoon in 1958, who later in Vietnam had the privilege of commanding 50 national servicemen in a rifle company of 120 and later still had a reserve brigade within my 1st Division, I am delighted to have been asked to give the occasional address for the 2004 Reserve Forces Day Service.

As we meet at the Australian War memorial on this brisk June day, all around Australia, men and women are gathering to commemorate their service to the nation in the Defence Reserves, as National Servicemen and in the Citizen Forces, and also to remember friends and colleagues with whom they served.

Even as I speak, young men and women of our Reserves are at sea in the Middle East. Others have recently returned from military service in East Timor, Bougainville, Malaysia and the Solomon Islands.

They all carry forward the proud tradition of Australia’s part time Reserve Forces, and in many cases further stepping up to serve their country, by performing full-time service when called upon to do so.

The traditions of Australia’s Reserves go back to the colonial era before Federation.

Our Reserve Forces have been involved in every conflict in which Australia has been involved since the Waikato War of 1863-1864 (New Zealand) to more recent times as contributors to United Nations peacekeeping operations.

Part time soldiering in Australia goes back almost to the beginning of settlement with the first volunteer force raised by Governor King on Norfolk Island in 1794.

By World War II, Militia numbers had grown to approximately 80,000.

Citizen soldiers took the initial brunt of combat operations in the Pacific when they went into action against the Japanese in the rugged and unfamiliar terrain of Papua New Guinea against a highly trained, determined and ruthless foe.

Who will ever forget the valour of the 39th militia battalion under Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Honner in its glorious contribution to the defeat of the Japanese on the Kokoda Track.

With the return of peace in 1945 and the restructure of the world order, young

Australian men and women were again asked to give up a weekend a month, Tuesday nights and 14 days on annual camp to prepare for the challenges of the post-war world and the Cold War.

A substantial part-time force was again seen as necessary as we faced the task of meeting possible contingencies in the Middle East and South East Asia.

The first 90 day National Service Scheme was established in the 1950s and from this the Reserves received a boost of “Nashos who completed their service obligations in part-time service in the RAN, the Citizen Military Forces and the Citizen Air Force.

In the 1960s, Australia’s defence effort focused on its involvement in South East Asia, with Malaysia, SEATO duties and confrontation predominating.

While the Reserves of all three services continued to provide the mobilisation base for large scale conflict, the government of the day chose to introduce a selective two year National Service obligation to meet the high manpower needs of operations in Vietnam.

And what a splendid contribution our National Servicemen made to that 10 year war. As an Infantry Company Commander at the time, I can honestly say that one could not tell the difference between regular or part time soldiers; we were all one company; the one battalion; the one Army, united in a single purpose to do a very difficult job to the best of our individual and collective abilities.

After Australia withdrew from Vietnam in 1972-73, the Defence Forces adjusted to the new situation. The Reserve continued to fulfil its role of providing an opportunity for young Australians to gain useful skills and serve their country, but still in the context of a mobilisation base for expansion in the event of major crisis.

Until the early 70s many National Servicemen dedicatingly joined the Reserves on completion of their two year full time obligation and continued to serve on a part time basis.

In the 1980s, the Reserve Forces continued to be viewed as the essential Strategic Reserve for the Australian Defence Force but with the end of the Cold War, in 1989, the likelihood of major mobilisation lessened and the rationale of maintaining a large mobilisation base became increasingly under question.

However, nothing stays the same for long and soon we found ourselves facing new challenges in an uncertain world.

The prospect of peace, so welcome at the end of the Cold War, has been challenged, particularly with the emerging threat of global terrorism.

The Reserve Forces are now required to be a more ready Operational Reserve, rather than our Strategic Reserve for mobilisation. Indeed, they now do much the same basic training over several weeks as their full time compatriots.

Accordingly, since 1999 Army Reservists have seen active service in East Timor including provision of the first Reserve infantry company to be integrated within a regular force battalion since World War II.

Reservists at times have made up to 25 percent of contingents that were deployed to Bougainville.

Reserve brigades around Australia now regularly deploy rifle companies to Malaysia, as part of Australia's commitment to the Five Power Defence Arrangement.

Reservists also provided humanitarian relief to devastated communities in Rwanda,

Somalia and Papua New Guinea.

Here at home three splendid Reserve Regional Force Surveillance Units (one with over 300 aboriginal soldiers in its ranks) conduct ongoing land based operations in remote northern Australia from the Pilbara, across the top end, the Torres Straight and down the cape to Cairns.

More than 2,000 Reservists from around Australia contributed to the security support for the Sydney Olympic Games and Paralympic Games in 2000.

Brisbane's 7 Brigade played a similar role for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2002, as well as the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

Our reserves also make a valuable contribution to the community, providing assistance in times of natural disasters such as floods, droughts and fires and in emergency rescue operations.

Following the Bali bombing, Operation Bali Assist could not have been conducted without the assistance of Reserve medical personnel and specialists.

While no Reserve units have been deployed to meet our military obligations in Iraq, individual reservists of all three services have come forward to contribute to sea, land and air operations, at a time when Australian Defence Forces are deployed around the world at an operational tempo higher than it has been for many years.

In recent years, we have witnessed the professional commitment of many of our Reserve specialist personnel to a range of humanitarian contingencies.

In this respect it is with particular pleasure that I note that the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps and the Royal Australian Nursing Corps have been singled out for recognition on this day.

Both of these corps continue to play a critical role in the successful support of military operations.

Today, the Reserves are being geared to bolster our defences against terrorism in the protection of vital national installations and in other functions.

In concluding, I would like to personally acknowledge the important role our Reservists are undertaking in the security of our nation. Their contribution today continues in the best traditions of the men and women of the Reserve Forces who have always rallied to the Colours when needed over the past 104 years.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I extend my thanks on behalf of the Australian nation to those of you who have served in the Australian Defence Reserves, those currently serving and to the families and employers who have supported, or continue to support you in your service to our great country, on Reserve Forces Day 2004.

Thank you.