Speeches

Looking After Veterans

October 25, 2018

 I rise today to add my support to the statements of the shadow minister and the minister in pressing the need to keep veterans and their families at the forefront of our nation's conscience. These are individuals for whom the notion of service has existed as a defining value for themselves, their families, their careers and their citizenship of this country. I say to these individuals: thank you for your service. These thanks must be given at multiple levels. Thank you for embodying your citizenship of this country through a commitment to protecting our interests at an international level. I say thank you for choosing a career of service above a career of comfort—a career where you gave of yourself beyond what most professions ask. I say thank you to your families—families who have gone without mothers and fathers for weeks while they've served overseas, families who've endured the uncertainty that comes with a loved one performing national service, families who've supported our veterans in their transition back into the civilian world and families who are often on the frontline of the treatment and care for PTSD, injury and other illnesses our veterans suffer when they come back from service.

Words are not enough, because our actions speak louder than our words and it is largely through our actions that veterans will feel the gratitude that we are expressing in this place today. It is our hope that, through Labor's military covenant, we will uphold these sentiments of gratitude within the concrete policy initiatives.

It takes a significant level of courage to dedicate oneself to national service in Australia's armed forces. As a country, Australia does well at acknowledging our veterans in public life. We speak often about sacrifice, honour and dedication to protecting the Australian values at the heart of our democracy. But, away from this public conversation, the parades, the ceremony and the public acknowledgement, our veterans frequently pay the personal price for their commitment to their country.

Our commitment to their gratitude must go deeper. We must do better to ensure our veterans are able to find supportive channels of meaning and service in the civilian world. The electorate I represent has an incredible military history. The suburb of Lurnea, in which I've lived all my life, was originally a soldiers' settlement developed in order for veterans to build life, family, work and community after the Second World War. Former soldiers were provided with parcels of land to begin market gardens and ease back into society. These beginnings are still evident in Lurnea today. It's a suburb that thrives on family, community and the values of a good day's work. We are a bright example of the incredible things that come from giving our veterans a solid start back into the civilian world.

Labor has a very strong commitment to veterans' employment. We want our veterans to find valuable, meaningful career pathways upon discharge from national service. This is why we have announced a $121 commitment to veterans' employment and transition. This commitment is about far more than employment and transitions; it's about our veterans feeling valued in our society. Much of this value can come from a good day's work with a supportive employer. We recognise that this needs to be in partnership that government is in the position to help facilitate.

Labor will provide funding to bridge skills gaps and assist industry with meeting the needs of returning veterans. It is also crucial that our veterans are able to access comprehensive treatment and ongoing care for the trauma they suffered in the course of their service. We must continue to support them through open conversation, supportive environments and resources they need to recover. Mental illness amongst our service personnel is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength that they have demonstrated in stepping up and serving their country.

All of this is about ensuring that veterans feel like the valued and supported members of civilian society we know they are. We want them to know they are not alone and continue to have a very special place in our society. This must be at the forefront of our sentiments when we say, 'Thank you for your service.' Lest we forget.

YOUR LOCAL VOICE