HONOURING OUR VETERANS WHO SERVED IN MALAYA AND BORNEO

Today is Malaya and Borneo Veterans’ Day, when we pause to recognise and remember the 10,500 Australians who served in the Malayan Emergency and the Indonesian Confrontation.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel Andrew Gee said he encourages Australians to acknowledge the service and dedication of those who fought in these post-Second World War conflicts in the Malaya and Borneo regions.

“Only a few short years following the end of the Second World War, the Malayan Emergency began in 1948, lasting until 1960,” Minister Gee said.

“The Malayan Emergency was declared following the murder of three European estate managers who were killed as part of the Malayan Communist Party’s insurgency against the British colonial government. Australia’s military involvement commenced in 1950 and continued with anti-insurgency operations in Malaya until 1963.”

One key success of the conflict was a coordinated operation in July 1954 in Perak state. In an operation code named Termite, five RAAF Lincoln bombers and another six Lincolns from 148 RAF Squadron made simultaneous attacks on two communist camps. This was followed by drops of British paratroops, a ground attack, and a further bombing run ten days later. The mission destroyed a large number of guerrilla camps.

During 13 years in Malaya, personnel from the Royal Australian Navy, Australian Army and the Royal Australian Air Force played an important role in bringing the long-running communist insurgency in the region to an end.

The Indonesian Confrontation or Konfrontasi started in 1962, ending in 1966.  This conflict was a small undeclared war fought between Indonesia and the newly federated state of Malaysia.

“The Confrontation was a dispute over whether the former British colonies of Sabah and Sarawak which bordered Indonesian provinces on Borneo, would become part of Indonesia or of the newly federated Malaysia,” Minister Gee said.

“In 1964 Australian, New Zealand and British troops first became involved in the conflict.

“On 11 August 1966 Indonesia signed a peace treaty with Malaysia. The treaty recognised that the North Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak would continue to be part of the Malaysian Federation.

“This year marks 55 years since the end of the Confrontation and I urge all Australians to pause and remember the service and sacrifice of those who fought for our nation.

“Tragically, we lost 39 Australians during the Malayan Emergency, and 23 military personnel during the Indonesian Confrontation. Australia will never forget them and all who served in those conflicts. They made a vitally important contribution to restoring peace and security to our region.”

You can learn more about the Malayan Emergency and Indonesian Confrontation on the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Anzac Portal.

Murderous Atrocity Demonstrates Why Our ADF Were Fighting

The events in Kabul are a murderous atrocity and if anyone was ever in any doubt about the righteousness of the Australian mission in Afghanistan this is a brutal reminder of the terrorists and criminals we were fighting against and the threats they posed to our national security and security of the world.

I would like to acknowledge the men and the women of the Australian Defence Force, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Home Affairs and our security agencies that have done so much to evacuate Australians and visa holders from Kabul.

Over 4100 people have been evacuated, which is an extraordinary effort.

Today we grieve with the people of the United States and Afghanistan and condemn the callous attacks on innocent civilians and American service personnel who were there solely to guard and protect the international evacuation effort.

We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the injured and those who lost loved ones.

Given reports that ISIS-K militants have also attacked the Taliban, my fear is that once allied forces have left, the veneer of security will break down and Kabul will sink into lawless chaos.

Twenty years ago, Australia stood up to defend freedom. The men and women of the ADF who served in Afghanistan should take great pride in their achievements.

Our troops were respected by our allies, feared by our enemies, and greatly appreciated by the people of Afghanistan they gave so much support and assistance to.

Nothing more could have been asked of our Afghanistan veterans, and nothing more could have been asked of Australia.

Ben Roberts-Smith reveals his devastation as the Taliban takes Afghanistan

I feel a great sense of sadness that Afghanistan is back in the hands of the Taliban.

I feel for the people of Afghanistan and the horrors they now face; I feel for the families of our fallen who will question the purpose of their sacrifice and I feel for the men and women who served their country with distinction throughout the Afghanistan War.

Only two months ago the current Chief of the Defence Force stated to a senate committee that he ‘did not believe the former Islamist extremist rulers of Afghanistan would overrun the entire country once NATO and its allies leave’.

Such a comment reinforces how far removed the leadership is and was from the realities of the situation in Afghanistan.

It also serves as a reminder of why our senior leadership was unable to provide a successful strategy for Afghanistan or to ever fully understand our enemy.

Australia’s most decorated soldier, Ben Roberts-Smith, has revealed his ‘great sense of sadness’ as the Taliban takes Afghanistan where his actions earnt the Victoria Cross.

Members of the Special Operations Task Group take part in a memorial service for SAS Sergeant Blaine Diddams who was killed in Afghanistan in 2012. Sergeant Diddams was a close friend of Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith

What is happening in Afghanistan today is not a surprise to the men and women who served there. It is just one of the reasons why today’s veterans are so disenfranchised with our senior military leadership.

Not because the withdrawal was ordered but for not giving us a chance to win.

The Taliban were never a rag-tag group of bogey men. They were a political entity with vast networks and resources who ruthlessly killed innocent men, women, and children.

It is time for our leaders to stand up and take responsibility for their failure of the Afghanistan people and their continuing failure of those who fought the war on their orders.

Forty one Australians died serving their country in Afghanistan. More than 500 veterans have taken their own life since returning home.

Ben Roberts-Smith says: ‘It is time for our leaders to stand up and take responsibility for their failure of the Afghanistan people and their continuing failure of those who fought the war on their orders.’

Support available for Australians who served in Afghanistan

This is a distressing time for many of our Defence personnel and veterans who served our nation in Afghanistan with courage, dignity and honour, and made such a significant contribution to the allied military effort.

We must never forget the 41 Australians who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Australia owes a great debt of gratitude to all our veterans who served with distinction and their families who supported them.

Over the past 20 years our nation has been unwavering in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan.

I understand many of those who served our nation in Afghanistan may feel frustrated, concerned and distressed at what is unfolding there.

My primary concern is the wellbeing of all of our veterans, Defence personnel, here at home and abroad, and their families.

I have asked the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to contact the families of ADF members who lost their lives in Afghanistan, as well as any veterans the Department is aware of who could suffer adversely as a result of what is currently happening in Afghanistan.

I encourage anyone who served in Afghanistan to reach out to support services available to them and their families if they need it.

For those who are not currently registered with DVA, please know that help and support is there for you. Please call DVA if you would like to access services or call Open Arms for counselling support.

ADF personnel, veterans and their families can call Open Arms 24 hours a day on 1800 011 046.

If you need to talk but don’t want to disclose your name, please call Safe Zone Support which offers anonymous counselling service for ADF personnel, veterans and their families. Its free and available 24/7. You can call 1800 142 072.

Please also reach out to any mates and their families who you know may be finding it difficult at this time. Although COVID restrictions are keeping us apart, there has never been a more critical time to ensure we stay connected.

 

Review of Unit Recognition for Somalia Service

26 June 2021

The independent Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal will re-examine the issue of unit recognition for the service of our Australian Defence Force (ADF) in Somalia.

Minister for Veterans Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester announced today that he had requested the Tribunal reassess the issue in response to representations from the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment Association.

“In late 1992 a humanitarian disaster, which was compounded by a complete breakdown in civil order, plunged Somalia into chaos and in response Australia deployed forces from all three Services to the Unified Task Force – Somalia (Unitaf) arriving in January 1993,” Mr Chester said.

“In 2009-10 the Tribunal broadly examined the issue of unit recognition for service in Somalia, however, the approach taken at the time focused on Defence’s internal consideration and whether there were any administrative errors in this consideration. It did not focus on whether the service of the battalion group actually met the criteria for a unit citation.

“After representations from the ex-service community, I have decided to refer the matter to the Tribunal for fresh consideration to look specifically at the issue of unit recognition, particularly whether any units that served in Somalia should now be recognised with a meritorious unit citation for their service.”

The Tribunal will consider the service of all ADF units that served in Somalia, having regard to the eligibility criteria for the Meritorious Unit Citation.

“It is important to our Somalia veterans to ensure their service is comprehensively and fairly considered, which the Tribunal will do through this new inquiry,” Mr Chester said.

“Submissions for this inquiry will close on 31 August 2021 and I encourage anyone with an interest in the issue to ensure their views are heard.”

PREPARATIONS FOR ROYAL COMMISSION MOVES TO NEXT PHASE

Preparation for the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide has moved into the next phase.

Over the past month I have had discussions with hundreds of veterans, serving members and families across the nation.

The feedback has been extremely positive and constructive and while opinions have been incredibly diverse, we all have one common goal – to prevent suicide within the Defence and veteran communities.

More than 1400 pieces of written feedback on the themes that will inform the Terms of Reference have been received by DVA alone.

Some of the common areas of concern identified throughout the consultation process relate to the transition process from Defence to civilian life, dealing with DVA in accessing assistance and the complexity of the legislation and the claims process, as well as mental health support, operational tempo and rotations, negative treatment of personnel, and a number of issues that impact families of those who serve.

Publication of the feedback is optional and where consent has been provided, DVA has been progressively making these available on the website.

The consultation phase has now concluded and all feedback provided to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) will be passed to the Attorney-General’s Department, who will draft the Terms of Reference. This is standard practice for a Royal Commission, and as evidenced by the Aged Care and Disability Royal Commissions, the community can have complete confidence in that process.

To be clear, DVA, the Australian Defence Force and the Department of Defence are not involved in the conduct of the Royal Commission itself or the drafting of the Terms of Reference. The Royal Commission itself will be completely independent of Government.

We have a world-class system of support for veterans and their families and Australians can be proud of the fact that $11.8 billion in taxpayers’ money is provided every year to allow DVA to do its work.

There’s an enormous amount of help available through DVA, ex-service organisations and community groups which is making a difference every day and it is so important that none of this stops during the course of the Royal Commission.

But the system isn’t perfect and the Royal Commission is an opportunity to identify any weaknesses, listen to the ideas of Australians, and implement changes that can help to save lives.

I would like to thank all those in the community who have provided their feedback.

And for any member of the ADF, veteran or their families who may be struggling as a result of this process, please reach out to Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling on 1800 011 046. Help is available.

1735892 Mervyn John Ryan

I have just been advised that 1735892 Mervyn John Ryan passed away on the 13 May after a very long illness. Merv served in 3 Pl A COY, 8 RAR in Vietnam from 26th June to 12 November 1970.

Funeral Service is to be held at 2 pm Friday 21 May 21 at  Mt Cotton Memorial Gardens 1774-1794 Mt Cotton Road, Carbrook QLD 4130.

HANDS OFF OUR BEN ROBERTS-SMITH VC, MG.

Can I start by saying that the accusations of ADF personnel conducting themselves in a war zone with rude or crude acts, “misbehaving at a makeshift bar in Afghanistan,” or drinking beer from a prosthetic leg – none of this should ever have been shared with media, and our media ought to have demonstrated discretion and decency in the dissemination of that imagery, out of respect for the contract we have with the soldiers we have sent to perform the most traumatising of all acts – to kill.

What we have done in Australia, is cognitively and decisively glorified our deceased veterans on ANZAC Day, on Remembrance Day, and in media suicide stories (and only ever through the metaphor of maternal grief), whilst damning our living ADF members and veterans, and forgetting their number one function (kill or be killed), is a function sanctioned by both Australia and Afghanistan, demanded of them by you the voters, to protect our national security, and to stabilise international tensions.

The nation has decided that the full narrative surrounding veterans is one we must not look at. When was the last time you heard the term “terrorist?” Or “shariah law?” Or “Taliban?” All of these things still exist,  little girls are still executed if found to be educated, little boys are still being trained to kill, and little kids are still playing dress-ups with suicide vests and used as weapons. Yet, we as a nation have decided not to look at these things… we have allowed our Prime Minister and Chief of Defence Force to apologise to our enemies in Afghanistan, whilst hanging our heroes out to dry by a noose.

The problem with trauma is that the human mind protects itself from annihilation, by compartmentalising that trauma in a space in the mind’s deepest recesses. In the absence of a compassionate society (by which I mean the absence of compassionate leadership, and compassionate therapy), this suppressed trauma brews like lava until either it is appropriately treated, or that volcano explodes in the form of aberrant behaviour, of mental illness, or suicide.

I can’t help draw the ironic comparison, between Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG burying this trauma deep inside the mind, and allegedly burying USB drives inside a pink plastic children’s lunchbox, hiding them from both police and military investigations.  In fact, this act is not simply an ironic symbolism, this is exactly what is happening inside the minds of our SASR soldiers. The information contained on those USB drives is the exact same trauma that is stored deep inside their minds’ recesses.

That evidence of war trauma, whether it’s suppressed in the mind, in a pink plastic children’s lunchbox, or buried 6ft under – it is trauma that is not only being suppressed and buried, it’s being punished. Suicide attempts among ADF personnel are still – in 2021 – being met with a military charge of “prejudicial conduct,” and ultimately a discharge from the ADF, sending a very strong message to everyone else to hide every crack and every evidence that a member is in the hurt locker.

When trauma is overwhelming, the mind often protects itself by disabling its ability to experience ’empathy.’ And our veteran space is over-burdened with an overwhelming number of both veterans, and their family members, whose fractured sense of empathy has created a fundamentally toxic landscape, culminating in worsened trauma, increased homelessness, mental illness, suicides… and aberrant behaviours.

If Australia wants to make this kind of trauma worse, then by all means – keep prodding and provoking our most traumatised veterans with stigmatising, shaming and punitive national judgements… but keep in mind that every one of our 641,000 veterans in this country is trained to kill, their rage is rapidly building, and like any volcano – it will eventually erupt unless an urgent, national refocus of compassion is directed at the problem.

Ben Roberta- Smith VC MG was awarded those post-nominals for killing the enemy with a heroic degree of bravery …  the only thing that has changed since he was awarded those post-nominals is the increased magnitude of toxic envy of everyone around him.

Dr Dan Mealey

Former Army doctor Afghanistan

80TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE SIEGE OF TOBRUK

On 10/11 April we commemorate 80 years since the start of the Siege of Tobruk, a period in which around 14,000 Australian soldiers, along with four regiments of British artillery and some Indian troops, were besieged in Tobruk, Libya by a German-Italian army during the Second World War.

It was vital for the Allies’ to hold the town of Tobruk with its harbour to stall the enemy’s advance into Egypt and forced them to bring most of their supplies overland from the port of Tripoli across 1500 km of desert.

Tobruk was subject to repeated ground assaults and constant shelling and bombing for around eight months and the men who served there were dubbed as the Rats of Tobruk by the enemy, a term that was embraced as an ironic compliment.

The Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy provided the garrison’s main link to its supply base. They were dubbed the “Scrap Iron Flotilla” by German propagandists and referred to as the “Tobruk Ferry” service by the besieged soldiers.

The combined navies provided invaluable support and lost numerous ships, sunk and damaged during the siege.

Half of the Australian troops were relieved in August, the second half in September and October.

However, one unit, the 2/13th Battalion, was unable to be evacuated and remained in Tobruk until the siege was lifted in December 1941.

Throughout the siege, the 9th Australian Division and attached troops lost over 830 men killed, more than 2,170 injured and around 940 taken prisoner.

At this time we remember ‘The Rats of Tobruk’ — the service and sacrifice of these brave men will never be forgotten. Lest we forget.

Find out more about the Siege of Tobruk on the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Anzac Portal — Libya and the Siege of Tobruk 1941 – Anzac Portal (dva.gov.au)