I want to use my column this month to highlight those who serve our country in peace time and in war time.
Each Anzac Day, we pause to remember and reflect on the sacrifice and service of the brave men and women who have fought and died defending our nation and the democratic freedoms we enjoy.
This year marks a series of anniversaries of battles where Australians served in World War I, World War II and Vietnam.
We observe the 100th anniversaries of the Battle of Messines, the five Battles of Ypres, including the Battles of Passchendaele and Polygon Wood on the Western Front, and the charge of the light horse at the Battle of Beersheba in Israel. We mark the 75th anniversaries of a number of battles during World War II including: the Fall of Singapore, the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Battle of Milne Bay, the Battle of El Alamein, and the Kokoda campaign. This year is also the 50th anniversary of Operation Bribie in 1967 and our involvement in the Vietnam War.
It was an honour to join the Brooklyn RSL Sub-Branch at their annual Anzac Day Commemorative Service and dinner last Sunday, where I spoke about Brooklyn residents who served our country. I am looking forward to services at Cherrybrook, Dural, Galston, Hornsby, Berowra, Kenthurst, Annangrove and Glenorie in the days around Anzac Day.
SUPPORTING VETERAN’S MENTAL HEALTH
Anzac Day also encourages us to reflect on what we are doing for our current veterans.
Unfortunately, many of our returning defence personnel, especially young soldiers are affected by mental illness. Recently, the Federal Government conducted a review into the suicide and self-harm prevention services available to current and former serving Australian Defence Force members and their families. This review found that veterans under 30 have a suicide rate above the national average. A recent Sky News investigation found that 41 military personnel and veterans took their own lives in 2016, the same as the number of Australians who were killed in Afghanistan during 13 years of war. It is an absolute priority that we combat these alarming figures and see current and former Australian Defence Force personnel and their families receive the support they deserve.
All those who have served full-time in the Defence Force can access free treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, alcohol and substance abuse through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Together with the Department of Defence and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the Government is developing strategies to provide further assistance to former members of the Australian Defence Force.
KENTHURST RURAL FIRE SERVICE BRIGADE
On 7 April, I joined the Kenthurst Brigade of the NSW Rural Fire Service at their anniversary dinner to celebrate 75 years of outstanding service to our community. We are fortunate to have dedicated volunteers protecting us throughout Hornsby and the Hills Shire. I particularly congratulate Kenthurst President Bruce Linton, Brigade Deputy President Bill Duncan, Hills District Manager John Hojel, Jeremy Clegg, Ken Featherstone, Ray Hancock and Lionel Smith on a fantastic night of celebration.