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.