Vietnam Veterans Remembrance Day address

18 August 2020

Your Excellency Major General (Ret’d) the Honourable Michael Jeffery, AC, AO, CVO, MC

Mr Matt Anderson, PSM – Director of the Australian War Memorial

Mr Don Spinks, AM – Representing the Minister for Veteran’s Affairs

Member for Bean, Mr David Smith, MP

Veterans of the Vietnam War and their families

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour to be here today representing the Chief of the Australian Defence Force.

Until recently, Vietnam was Australia’s longest war.

From 1962 to 1972, over 60,000 Australians served in the conflict.

They supported, and were supported, by allies and partners, some of whom are represented here today.

With New Zealand they wrote another chapter in the storied history of ANZAC.

Our people served on ships, conducted mine clearance operations, provided training and assistance to South Vietnamese forces, fought in jungles, scrub, paddies, towns and villages, flew combat and air support missions, tended to the wounded, supplied allied armies and performed the myriad other tasks of war.

The men and women who served were also part of a remarkable generation of leaders and trainers for the organisation that became the Australian Defence Force in 1976.

They taught what they had learnt to the next generation. Their hard won experience became the foundation of Australia’s military culture, doctrine and practice. As part of a following generation, I thank you for enabling our success in peace and war.

The service of Roy Mundine, a Bunjalung man, is one story which exemplifies leadership, and service to nation.

Roy joined the Army in 1956. He served in Malaya in 1959 and had two tours of South Vietnam, the first in 1966 and the second in 1969. During his second tour, the then CPL Mundine was Mentioned in Dispatches for his actions on April 25, 1969 as a section commander. During this action, Roy, despite sustaining serious wounds from a mine detonation, commanded his section and ensured that no further casualties were sustained. Roy returned home and remained in the Army until 1995, attaining the rank of Warrant Officer Class One. ‘Uncle Roy’ Mundine OAM has just retired from his position as our Army’s first Indigenous Elder.

We also recognise that many of those who served continue to carry the impacts of the experience with them. Tony Ey, a Navy clearance diver, said:

‘There's not a day goes by that I don't think about Vietnam.

It is so much a part of you that you can never ever, ever shake it.

It's something that stays with you for life’.

Vietnam Veterans Day is important for us all. Through these events, veterans and communities can heal, be proud and stay connected.

So while we gather slightly differently this year, the intent remains - that we come together to remember and reflect so Australia and Australians can learn of service and sacrifice, of loss, of remembrance and reconciliation.

Today we remember those who served and made sacrifices in the Vietnam War.

We honour the 521 Australians who gave their lives.

We remember over 3000 Australians who were physically wounded and the many more who suffered psychological or moral wounds.

During this year, the International Year of the Nurse, we remember the nurses and medical staff who tended the wounded, and acknowledge that their service saved many lives.

We thank all those who served and their families who support them.

Lest we forget.