Vietnam Veterans Day Motion

Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (12:36): I, too, rise to support this motion, a very important motion: Vietnam Veterans Day on 18 August. The Battle of Long Tan conflict lasted from 1954 to 1975. The day is an opportunity to reflect on the involvement of Australia and others who served in the Vietnam War from 1962 to 1972. Almost 60,000 Australians served over the 10 years of involvement, with more than 3,000 wounded and 521 making the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Australia's commitment mainly consisted of army personnel but also saw numbers of Air Force and Navy personnel and some civilians take part in the conflict. Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War began with the arrival of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam in South Vietnam in July 1962, after South Vietnam's leader, Ngo Dinh Diem, requested assistance from the US and its allies in the fight against communist insurgents. Vietnam Veterans Day falls on the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan in 1966. The Battle of Long Tan was a significant moment in Australia's contribution in Vietnam.

The men of Delta Company 6th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment faced approximately 2,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops in heavy tropical downpour. On this day, 17 Australians were killed in action and a further 25 were wounded, one of whom died days later. This battle marked the largest number of casualties in a single operation in the entirety of the Vietnam War. This year marks 55 years since the battle and 50 years since the cessation of Australian combat operations in Vietnam.

In the Riverland and the electorate of Chaffey, the Australian Vietnam Veterans Action Association was formed in late 1979 as a result of the perception of Vietnam veterans that exposure to chemicals was causing problems with their health and the health of their children. The chemicals, known by the generic name of Agent Orange, included 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, a by-product of which is the extremely poisonous substance TCDD or dioxin. In my electorate of Chaffey there are many returned Vietnam veterans and different ex-service organisations, all of which play really important roles.

The Riverland sub-branch president, Max Binding is a stalwart of that organisation. In 2009, the Berri Barmera Council established a memorial on the riverfront, with the support of the Riverland community. This memorial was designed and erected by the Riverland Vietnam Veterans Association, with the support of the Riverland community, to honour those regular and national service personnel who served their country post World War II. It was officially opened by Brigadier Rick Burr DSC MVO on 30 October 2009. The memorial form is surrounded by a bed of red roses, with etched glass panels depicting pictures of the Army, Air Force and Navy, and of course the Chinook helicopter, which was an absolute signature of the Vietnam conflict.

This year again, supporters from across the region gathered at the monument to pay their respects on 18 August, with a fantastic turnout after the event was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic. Many of those from the Riverland who served were just teenagers, or only in their early 20s, with little idea of what lay ahead. Many of those returned servicemen have been affected by the battlefields and by their war-torn experience.

There are a whole range of returned and service organisations that provide a range of different services for different needs, and I have a few in my own electorate, such as the local RSL clubs—our veterans and their families would certainly be poorer without them. The support they provide is often not only to the veteran but also to their families and their children.

I would like to acknowledge all our veterans: those who are still with us, those who have passed and those who have served. I would also like to thank those who do so much work with the Riverland veterans and the wellbeing centre to support veterans in our community. It is important that we support our veterans who were asked to go above and beyond the call of duty to protect our nation.

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