Anzac Community Grants Program

I thank the member for East Hills for moving the motion to acknowledge and debate this very important issue for our veterans, and I am delighted to make a contribution to debate on behalf of the Opposition in my capacity as shadow Minister for Veterans. The grants are very important because we need to keep telling the stories of our veterans and the service of our people through the generations. This year marks the anniversary of quite a number of memorable events during our very proud and rich military history. With the House's indulgence, I take members through some of them.

We are all taught in school about the two World Wars and a select few battles, but some others are just as important. In March and April this year there were and are several significant anniversaries marking those historic events. It is 80 years since the Fall of Singapore, and we remember those who were captured and who made the ultimate sacrifice during that seriously cruel and harsh time. I was delighted to visit the museum in Singapore during a very short visit to remember and acknowledge our Australians on that eightieth anniversary. The eightieth anniversary of the sinking of HMASPerth was also marked on 1 March. The 160‑metre light cruiser was originally named HMASAmphion and commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1936. She consisted of eight six‑inch guns, eight four-inch dual-purpose guns, eight 21-inch torpedo tubes and a number of automatic anti‑aircraft weapons. She carried a Seagull V aircraft for reconnaissance missions. Of the 686 company on boardPerth, which included four civilians and six RAAF personnel, only 218 were repatriated.

On 4 March it was also 80 years since another Royal Australian Navy vessel, HMASYarra, was sunk following a battle with Japanese destroyers. Just a month later on 9 April 1942, HMASVampire was sunk by Japanese forces in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of Colombo. HMSHermes of the Royal Navy was with HMASVampire at that time and they were both attacked. TheVampire captain, William Moran, and seven crew lost their lives during that battle. British hospital ship HMSVita rescued 590 survivors from the Vampire and theHermes. Australian shores were not immune during World War II. On 3 March 1942 close to 90 people were killed when Broome in Western Australia was bombed by Japanese air forces. On 14 March 1942 the Australian base on Horn Island, about 800 kilometres north of Cairns, was also bombed by Japanese forces. More than 150 personnel and about 80 civilians were killed.

Eight days later, on 22 March 1942, Japanese aircraft bombed Katherine, resulting in the death of one person. Two days after that, Japanese forces bombed Port Moresby in an attempt to cut off shipping to eastern Australia. Just over 10 years later, on 6 April 1952, the Royal Australian Regiment arrived in Korea and remained there for 17 months. This year 11 April marks the 105th anniversary of the unsuccessful attempt by the 4th Australian Division and 62nd British Division to penetrate the Hindenburg Line during the First Battle of Bullecourt on the Western Front. The Hindenburg Line was the last and strongest German defence and was made up of three well‑defended trench systems. As a result of the battle on 11 April, more than 1,000 Australians became prisoners of war, which was the largest number during a single action in World War I. There were also 3,000 casualties—men who paid the ultimate price.

This year 21 April will also mark 105 years since the formation of the Imperial War Graves Commission. Later renamed the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, it is responsible for erecting and maintaining war memorials and cemeteries. Last, but certainly not least, 28 April this year will mark 70 years since Australia ratified the peace treaty with Japan and the official ending of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force. Towards the end of 1948 Australia had assumed responsibility for the largest role in the occupation force, and it was the first time that Australia was involved in military occupation of a sovereign nation it had defeated in war. Australia's primary role was to enforce the terms of the unconditional surrender that was signed on 2 September 1945.

Those are just some of this year's commemorations, which highlight the importance of those grants and memorials so that we will never forget. I am delighted to have a very rich and proud military history in my electorate. It stems from the Ingleburn army camp as well as our very active RSL sub-branches, which have worked hard and passionately over a very long time to provide veterans with the support they need. The member for Camden, who is in the Chamber, would be aware of the involvement of the Australian Light Horse in Menangle. I have attended the site of the Light Horse camp in Menangle with the member for Camden and the member for Wollondilly to mark the importance of that precious place. We are lucky to have it in our region. I know the member for Camden will agree. I thank the member for East Hills for bringing this motion to the House and for the opportunity to acknowledge something so special to us all—the service of veterans to our great nation. I thank the House.

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