Recognising all military sacrifice

Apart from being Valentine’s Day, February 14th is also National Servicemen’s Day. Veteran’s Affairs Minister, Bruce Billson has issued a press release ‘encourag(ing)…all Australians to reflect on the service and sacrifice of Australia’s national servicemen…’

He is right to draw attention to the role of those who were obliged to serve our country during the 1950s, 60s and early 70s. 20 000 Nashos served in Vietnam and were an important part of our defence force at the time. However, it also served to prompt the National President of the Injured Service Persons Association (Peacetime Injuries) to note that there had again been no official acknowledgement of the anniversary of the disaster on the night of the 10th February 1964, when the HMAS Voyager and the HMAS Melbourne collided, resulting in 82 deaths.

While many decades have passed since the Voyager tragedy, it is a significant peacetime event in Australia’s military history and its affects still resonate today – some legal claims are still pending. It is one of many cases where people who have served their country in peacetime, or their families, have faced an uphill battle to have cases dealt with appropriately and expeditiously. It rankles with many that that their service and sacrifices are rarely acknowledged.

This link goes to a list of Australian men and women who had lost their lives while in service during peacetime. The list spans 88 years and contains over 500 names. It is sobering to look at the roll call and to read the annotations of how these soldiers, sailors and airmen and women died. It serves as a reminder of the dangers to service men and women in peacetime as well as in conflict situations. Of course, it does not include the many more service personnel permanently injured during peacetime service.

These forgotten personnel deserve better recognition of their service and their sacrifice. Whilst there have been some advances in recent times, I believe there is also still plenty of room for improvement in how many injured service personnel are treated. The F111 Deseal-Reseal issue is a recent example of this, but there are many more individuals who also deserve a fairer go. The ISPA does an important job representing the interests of those forgotten personnel who find themselves cast aside into the too hard basket – often after transitioning through the ‘no longer useful’ basket first – but there also needs to be greater public and political awareness of this situation.

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  1. It is not a strange thing to people like me to read this type of story.
    As an ex-service man, medically discharged at 100%, I find it the normal occurrence for the Government to send us out into the wild and not do a thing to recognise our service to Australia.
    Men and Womwen of the Defence Force are injured and killed all the time and all they get is dumping from their roles in the Defence Force, with no assistance to re-train or live normal lives and then having to pay medical expenses and the likes.
    I joined an Army that promised to look after me and my family if the need arose. But now that hope of support is a dream and I live with the fact that I was a number and my blood is worthless to the Australian Government.
    This kind of treatment is illegal if animals are treated this way, but the Government can feel free to ignore the sacrafices made by normal people in the protection of this Nation in peace time.
    No one deserves to be treated like this, shame on the John Howard thugs that beleive service personel are canon fodder and treat us that way. I dream of an Australia that supports Defence Personnel for what they do and who they are, I hope you do to.
    Remember all that serve, they do it for you!

  2. Andrew Bartlett:
    Thank you very much for reminding everyone about these tragedies. Tragedies not only in the events and situations themselves but tragedies in the callous, mean, spiteful way those who were affected were treated by successive governments ….. and tragedies for the future too …. when political warfare officers in the armed forces of potential enemies bombard Australian troops in the field with credible propaganda about these events and situations.

    I regard the learned QCs who won resounding court-room victories for the Commomwealth Government against those who survived these tragedies as nothing better than unintentional agents for Australia’s enemies. The true costs of such “wins” may yet be a tremendous loss of blood and treasure for us and victory for our enemies.

  3. Good stuff Andrew, but next can you fix the systems like DVA and Dept. of Defence that are abandoning our veterans, its all about saving money nothing else. I honestly think they make it as hard as possible for support to be rendered, criminals get better and fairer treatment, is that what we have to become?

  4. I suppose I shouldn’t be breathless at the cynicism displayed toward ex-service people, but nonetheless am.
    In the US, home to Dick Cheney and Haliburton, the same sort of cynicism led to Iraq vets who joined up being robbed of their enlistment bonuses. They returned home maimed, but because they could not thus fulfil the technicality of their enlistment terms; serving the entire term of enlistment, they were “rooked”.
    BTW, what ever happened to that inquiry concerning the Sea-King helicopter that went down over Aceh after the tsunami?

  5. Andrew,
    Your reference to ” the disaster on the night of the 10th February 1964, when the HMAS Voyager and the HMAS Melbourne collided, resulting in 82 deaths.”…..leaves me flabbergasted at the ignorance of some people in HM Australian Parliament.
    When referring to a ship HMAS Voyager or HMAS Melbourne is the correct term of addres. They are not referred to as ‘the’ Her Majesties Australian Ship So and So. In general conversation however they can be referred to as ‘the’ Voyager or ‘the’ Melbourne. I have listened to supposedly learned people in public positions make this very common mistake since I enlisted in the RAN over 55 years ago.

  6. I served 20 years and was medically discharged for my injury that i sustained doing a promotion course. I supported the olympic games in sydney with the injury and after training my replacements was thrown out. I am still fighting DVA for my claims. I am also a member of ISPA. I see that a victorian minister who failed to qualify for her pension has won the action and its worth approx 100k per year because she was unable to continue due to HEALTH REASONS. I ask you who did more for australia?

  7. Andrew,
    Whilst it is good to see some further comment from yourself re our war history and the struggles of our veterans, I have to agree with Jason in his comments.
    The federal government is not interested in addressing ongoing anomalies within veteran’s law and I particularly note the further amendments to the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act SRCA where the government will re-define the definition of ‘Injury’ and ‘Disease’.
    As the legislation is currently under review by a committee of the Senate, not enough interest is being shown (other than yourself)by other federal members.

    I look forward to see if your party’s veteran’s policy will be updated.
    There remains several questions to which the government can be challenged on and they’re really not interested in providing compensation.
    Even yesterday, I spoke to a ex-serviceman and he told me of the struggles with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    In your capacity as the party’s spokesperson in this area, there is more that you could do.

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