Veterans Organisations Motion

Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (12:26): I, too, rise to commend the member for Hammond's excellent motion. I would like to also pay tribute to the contribution that many of our veterans have made to give us the freedoms and the democracy we have in this modern world. 

Our Returned and Services League clubs right across South Australia, and particularly in the electorate of Chaffey, continue to do a fantastic job. Not only do they rally around returned servicemen and their families but they continue to reach out to give support and garner support for those who are looking for some level of assistance in the much different world that we live in today.

Many of those returned servicemen have been affected by the battlefields and by their war-torn experience. We must also acknowledge the great contribution they made to return home, which should never be forgotten. Of course, those who paid the ultimate price are also what this motion is about. It is about acknowledging those who gave their lives for our freedoms today, and we should be eternally grateful.

In the electorate of Chaffey, RSLs are prominent around many of the Riverland towns and many of those RSL clubs are very active. Two of the most active clubs—I say this with respect—are the Waikerie RSL and the Loxton RSL. They have museums, and the passionate, dedicated volunteers continue to collect artefacts, memorabilia, medals and historic items to put on display to showcase what those returned servicemen are prepared to put into custodianship in those museums.

If we look around the electorate, we have Bob Deidre at Swan Reach, Rob Manuel at Loxton, Paul Croft at Waikerie, John Forrester at Morgan, Jim Rolf—a real character—at Barmera, Chris Ware at Berri, Peter Higgs at Renmark and Kym Parry at Blanchetown. They are great presidents or representatives of those RSLs. Of course, we cannot forget Legacy. That is a great institution for support of returned servicemen, wives and partners, and gives them the support they need after the horrific era that people had to go through.

Of course, many of the sub-branches were unable to celebrate their centenary last year due to COVID. COVID-19 really did throw the world into turmoil, especially when it came to our being able to celebrate and acknowledge ANZAC Day. I think now we are seeing a lot of those subbranches that are coming out and celebrating.

Recently I attended the Loxton RSL—the 101-year celebration—which was very fortunate to have His Excellency Hieu Van Le and his wife, Lan, there. They are dedicated people, too, to come out to the cause and as a sign of respect. They were ably assisted by Howard Hendrick. Howard Hendrick OAM is an absolute legend. He is a Riverland legend, a returned servicemen. He is 97, He was the son of a soldier who returned and set up a soldier settlement block in Renmark, and he has a great story to tell.

One of the stories in his memoir is about how he completed 30 missions in Europe. He was a pilot of not only Lancasters but also Halifaxes, and he completed 30 missions into Europe with the same crew. That says volumes—to go into battle with a crew and come home 30 times shows just how successful he was and how brave he and his crew were to do the great work that they did.

He was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. The reason I know this is that two weeks previously I was at his book launch—the launch of his book called Full Circle. It was just a great story. It is a great read, and for any of those of you who are into the stories of conflict and war Howard Hendrick's story is just something that is a joy to read.

What I must say is that also at the Loxton RSL centenary, or the 101 celebration, we were very lucky to have Colonel Steve Larkins. Steve is from the Virtual War Memorial in the nation's War Memorial. The virtual war memorials are gathering data so that those stories are easily accessible, easily gathered and made public so that people can understand what their family ties are with conflict, who are those people within their regions who served the country.

It really is something that is gaining momentum and huge popularity, particularly with giving acknowledgement to those returned servicemen, those who died who were never recognised, those who returned and were able to tell a story. It really is a great part of acknowledging our veterans and their community.

What I must also remind people is that we have just been through ANZAC Day. I think we are going to run out of time for everyone to speak on our second motion, but I will talk a little bit about ANZAC Day because it is a day of great pride, particularly in my electorate up in the Riverland and the Mallee. I think it was very especially memorable this year, after last year with the restrictions that were put on ANZAC Day. What we have seen this year is it has given everyone the ability to come back out, celebrate, stand around a campfire in some instances, where most people in the city do not actually have that opportunity.

In the electorate, I was given a task to get around to as many of those dawn services, the morning services or the late morning services, to acknowledge. I would say that it was a busy day. It was a proud day for me to be able to stand tall, particularly at The Last Post, to acknowledge and show some respect to those veterans and their communities.

Deputy Speaker, as you would well know the tyranny of distance does present challenges. On ANZAC Day, I left home at 3.20 am, and I headed to Mantung. Mantung is a small community in the Mallee, population 21. It certainly is a drawcard for many of our veterans and the supporters and their families. We saw over 150 people at the Mantung hall for the dawn service. I would like to thank Lou Westbrook and Neil Schlein for their great work for that service but also Susi Evans and Leanne Parker for keeping that service in order and making it run as smoothly as it did.

After Mantung, I headed to Waikerie where I attended a morning service, which was very well attended. The numbers were probably as good as they have ever been. Then I got back on the highway and headed up to a service at Renmark where many hundreds of locals paid their respects, and that was the second service of the day. The dawn service had been run, but I was able to get there for the late morning service.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who assisted me in laying wreaths where I could not attend. Some of those dawn services were at Swan Reach, Loxton, Morgan, Barmera, Blanchetown and Moorook. It certainly was a great day and I was very proud to go along to talk to some of those returned servicemen and, in particular back at the Renmark RSL, to have a beer, a snag and just listen to some stories. Again, those stories never seem to fall into a conversation where you would say, 'I have heard that story before,' because there is always another story to listen to, and they are always willing to engage.

I think it is great to see so many of our young out and about paying their respects. It really is something that I think should be part of history forever. I would like to acknowledge all our veterans, those who are still with us, those who have passed and those who have served. I returned at 3pm, some 12 hours later, having clocked up some 750 ks for the day. It was a great honour to be able to get out to acknowledge our returned veterans and their communities.

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