Friday, 19 March 2021

TOMORROW we commemorate 105 years since the arrival of Australian troops, who were part of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC Corps), in Marseille, France, during the First World War.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said these troops joined the Allied cause to fight against the powerful Imperial German Army, with every battle testing the limits of each man’s endurance.

“In February 1916, the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and the New Zealand Expeditionary Force were rearranged as both forces had expanded, this led to ANZAC Corps being replaced by I ANZAC Corps and II ANZAC Corps,” Mr Chester said.

“The AIF men were fit and eager to prove themselves worthy of the Anzacs’ reputation of bravery, skill and initiative, a reputation that is remembered in Australian society more than a century on.”

The two newly formed corps included veterans who had been evacuated from Gallipoli to provide a foundation of experience, reinforcements who had been training in Egypt, recent recruits from Australia and the recently formed New Zealand Division.

“By the end of 1916, more than 10,000 men of the AIF had died on the Western Front, and some 30,000 had been wounded – losses which were felt immensely on the home front,” Mr Chester said.

“The impact of this war was felt by those who lost their comrades and in the Australian community where family members and friends grieved over those who would never return home. For their service and sacrifice, we say thank you.

“I encourage all Australians to offer a moment of their day to remember the service of all those who fought in the campaigns in France.”

As a lasting legacy to their service, the Sir John Monash Centre tells Australia’s story of the Western Front through the words of those who served. Set on the grounds of the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery in northern France, and adjacent to the Australian National Memorial, the Sir John Monash Centre is the hub of the Australian Remembrance Trail along the Western Front.

To learn more, visit the Anzac Portal.


THE first Psychiatric Assistance Dog trained by veterans, for veterans, has moved home with her veteran handler in Canberra.

The veteran founded not-for-profit specialist service, Integra Service Dogs Australia, helps veterans manage their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and has delivered its first dog under the Federal Government’s Psychiatric Assistance Dog Program.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester welcomed Belle to the ranks of these amazing assistance dogs who are helping change the lives of veterans and their families.

“Belle will be an amazing help to her veteran handler, Ben Jones,” Mr Chester said.

“The dogs provided through this program, like Belle, play an important role for veterans and their families living with PTSD as they are trained to the individual needs of their veteran and perform specific tasks to help them with their recovery and general wellbeing.”

As Belle and Mr Jones have completed their intensive training program and passed the Public Access Test, they will now spend each day together. The bond formed during Integra’s training program means that Belle has insight into Mr Jones’ condition and knows his unique triggers allowing him to reclaim his place in the community and rebuild his life.

“I have greatly appreciated the professionalism and support provided by Integra. They have worked closely with me to match me with a highly suitable and intelligent Labrador and developed us as a bonded team,” Mr Jones said.

Mr Chester said this was a life changing program for so many veterans managing PTSD as part of their ongoing mental health plan.

“These dogs have such a profound impact on the day-to-day lives of our veterans and it is so encouraging to hear the stories of success and of veterans overcoming challenges with their dogs by their sides,” Mr Chester said.

“Thank you for your service Ben. I wish you and Belle all the very best on your journey together.”

Integra joined three other organisations as a provider of psychiatric assistance dogs in early August 2020 and they have since supported veterans through the matching, placement and training of these amazing companions. Belle is the first of four Integra dogs to pass their Public Access Test and take up residency with their veteran handlers this month.

Twenty-one psychiatric assistance dogs have now passed their intensive training program across the four providers and are helping veterans every day, and an additional 89 dogs are in training across Australia.

Eligible veterans who have a diagnosis of PTSD can access the Psychiatric Assistance Dog program, by contacting the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA). Veterans currently accessing treatment for PTSD may wish to speak to their mental health professional to see if a psychiatric assistance dog would be a suitable adjunct to treatment. For more information, visit the Psychiatric Assistance Dog Program page on DVA’s website at www.dva.gov.au/dogs.

ANZAC Day March – Melbourne

This year 2021, there will not be a Gunfire Breakfast, nor an ANZAC Day March in Melbourne as we know it.

Serving ADF Veterans will Parade March from a little way up Birdwood Ave and then into the Shrine Of Remembrance (SOR) grounds.

The RAAF will lead, as this is their Centenary year.

No non-serving Veterans will march, family members nor Foreign Veterans.

Some Banners will be located on a very small piece of the SOR Grounds.

Banners and Bearers will be organised by the  RSL.

The service will be live-streamed, as will the Governor’s address.

Only the Governor and one Veteran will lay wreaths.

This year only 1500 Victorians will be permitted to attend and 1500 will be chosen via Ballot, (SOR will arrange this) and an area will be roped off for the lucky ones.

The after Parade Service will be conducted in the Sanctuary (again live-streamed).

The ANZAC Church service during Evensong, at St Paul’s, will go ahead on Sunday 18 April.

Numbers may be limited to 100, stand by, as this may change without a lot of notice.

Preparing for War is Never an Each- Way Bet


An old mate, officially recognized for bravery in war, recently reflected on the erosion of our precious way of life. His concerns, shared by many veterans, included increasing national fragmentation, spurred on by constant political brainwashing with emphasis on them and us; (as opposed to obvious strengths such as one people, one nation.) His concerns also embraced the gradual and sly campaign by Thought Police slowly stealing our freedom of speech, the very base of any democracy. Nor, he added, should we ignore the current official condoning of radicals distorting our proud history into evil deeds.   

He, like other veterans was asking if military service had been worth the effort in protecting values so vital to our precious way of life? The answer is YES, it surely was. However, no one, but no one had predicted the constant greed, megalomania, incompetence and blinkered vision demonstrated by an alarming proportion of our political representatives.  Removing self -imposed blindfolds would reveal to them that our way of life is being destroyed by a noisy and destructive minority. The stark reality is our treasured democracy will not survive without national unity and social disciplines. (Keep your fingers crossed for the USA, for where they go, we go)

Politicians capable of leadership, and with the courage to demonstrate it, should no longer linger in the shadows, but step forward to lead. This includes the need to educate their colleagues of the strong measures necessary in military training to win wars. For their fellow politicians to clearly understand the first step is to remove all the obstacles to military training insisted on by trendy, naïve and rowdy disciples of political correctness. It would also be appropriate to remind all parliamentarians that sound preparation for war also includes weaponry, toughness, resilience and always a strong national spirit of pride, purpose and unity. It’s all of us together, not just those who pull the triggers.

Our beloved military is changing, as it should, to confront the challenges of the space age, but never with the current iron shackles of political correctness, or other impediments which will dilute its fighting spirit, resilience, toughness and capabilities

As for my mate and many others who wore the proud cloth, they wouldn’t have missed serving their beloved country for Quids. Me too!.  

                                 A Letter to old Soldiers

Remember swearing the oath, thinking you were special and still free

Then you arrived at the depot to become idle horrible people for all to see

Day and night Spartan routines, which would please any father’s heart

Before dawn, sleep stolen by a bugle call for another long day to start.

Polishing, beds made, rifles cleaned and a rushed meal of porridge glue

Barrack room inspections revealed specks of dust thus extra chores to do 


On graduating to a unit, it became your family forever and a day

More rules, and if you broke them, the only hope was to pray 

“Honour, love of country, duty first and all for one and one for all” 

Your heart and mind so responsive to each and every bugle call

You were ready for war, to fight and win, and always care for each other

To make sure; there was a fierce, angry sergeant as your adopted mother 


In war you tasted grief, hunger, thirst and so often, doubts and fear

Courage was fueled by the comfort of comrades, ever so near 

There was faith in your leaders and all of you were as one

When all seemed lost, and as ordered, you all stood fast and won 

Whatever the odds; never did you relent heart and spirit to any foe.

When you came home; sadly, many carried packs of restless woes 


Those who have not been part of the military will never understand why

Soldiers risk all with the fall of the dice as they go forward to live or die.

Their lives bound by proud history, honour, duty, and dear comrades all

To dishonor the sacred creed is to be banished and never again to stand tall

Their strength is unity, mate ship, pride, love of country and its way of life  

Always shared are the precious dreams, often conceived during bloody strife


Now you grow old and a new generation of soldiers marches by with pride 

Like you once were; in step, heads held high, and always as one, side by side

You can watch and cheer the young column, yet no longer follow

Young hearts, laden with the unknown; spirits high, marching into tomorrow

They pass aged footprints of peace and war where you have already been

Then will be your last and smartest salute, until the column can’t be seen

George Mansford©January 2021


Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

Virginia O’Hanlon Douglas, the woman who as a child was told “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” is shown in 1966 at left,, and at right as a child in a undated picture. Mrs. Douglas gained fame from a response to letter she wrote to the old New York Sun, whose editorial reply became a Yuletide classic. (AP Photo) The following is a letter to the editor and subsequent editorial that was first published in on September 21, 1897, in The New York Sun.

DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.

Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.

Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’

Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?



Is There a Santa Claus?

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

George Mansfield’s Latest

It’s time to be or not to be

Ours is not a happy planet. Our land down under is no longer remote. Like it or not, we are in the firing line as are all nations, and let’s face it, we have been very slow from the starting blocks.  We need precious time to become more self -reliant and clearly to have a sense of purpose to enhance our security. If such political intent already exists, our people are still waiting to be told what it is.

At the moment, divisiveness is thriving, thanks to the meekness of our leaders to oppose political correctness and ranting groups such as WOKE and ZERO Culture. They are noisy minority groups with no regard to the law, and intent in destroying our national pride, including history and culture. Then there are those who disgrace their noble profession of teaching and are poisoning the minds of our very young with their own pathetic agendas.

We need to pursue unity not wallow in the mud of time-consuming pointless debates of them and us and in between. As a nation, we need once more to master our sense of pride of who we are, what we are and what we strive to be.

The way of life we enjoy did not come easy and was achieved with blood sweat and tears. Those before us had visions and pursued their dreams until they became reality.  Their family structure and conduct was the foundation of our nation. Such generations demonstrated strong social discipline and always was their strong faith in themselves and beliefs to hold them in good stead, be it war, nature’s constant tantrums or great depressions, to name but a few.

We are but caretakers to ensure that in such a changing world, our values are not prostituted or surrendered and are very much alive for those who follow us. That may well be an impossible task if we continue to procrastinate and talk of petty things while growing idle, fat and meek. The choice is simple; to once more become a fiercely proud united, determined and resilient nation with sound vision, or remain impotent, idle and gutless and watch our nation slowly fade away to become a page of history of what used to be.

Our message should be clear; “our country and way of life are not for sale”

The above aims cannot be achieved without sound leadership at all levels. It begins in Canberra and reaches out spreads to the most distant governing body within our nation.

Prime Minister, it is time for a recognised and positive sense of direction which our people understand. It must be a policy which is timely, achievable and which will also enhance national pride, unity, ensure security and set milestones for future generations to consider.

If there are those in command at any level of our national structure in the starting blocks who can’t or won’t be part of the team, then tell them to bugger off before the great marathon begins.


A greedy rich dragon is on the prowl and so near

Marching south in anger and without fear

Towards our placid land down under, bearing economic and military might

Hungry for power, to steal riches and to end our most fortunate way of life


Gawd, our boasted busy factories are still fairy tales and our armoury is bare

Reliance on others is the norm for refined oil; and nuclear power we never did dare

More limiting rules on combat to please both UN and foe is definitely a farce

And Uncle Sam can’t help; he’s too busy kneeling on his knees for a sinful past


Despite the roar and heat of the dragon’s breath, now at close range

The Greens still shun fossil fuels, and forever worship climate change

“Woke” contrary to its name is still in very deep, deep sleep

“Zero Culture” seeks to destroy our past, and disunity soon to reap


As reality dawns, panic replaces lethargy and dull fantasy games

The dragon moves closer to occupy old leases and brand-new claims

Sleepy senior Suits have yet to gather to decide what must be done

Alas, from neglect in planning, the war, be it with gold or blood, can’t be won


The war-room is cluttered with make believe plans of national defence

The great hope of fools was a fleet of yesterday’s submarines 25 years hence

Young warriors with blunt spears wait for orders on what they must do?

Then brace themselves for a mission impossible they already knew


We do not know what the fortunes of what tomorrow will be

Yet lessons of war are very clear and much we should have learnt from history

The best way to prevent war is to be ready for it, and has always been the call

For most we were ill prepared, and despite the misery, have learnt bugger all


The Suits in ever smaller circles stumble over reams of new rules on the floor

Passing dusty cobwebbed books of Lessons from War

Hurdling boxes of political correctness that have always been in the way

Fearing the unexpected as the dragon’s roar is now heard night and day


Finally, the penny drops as the leader, head down with shuffling feet

Whispers to all, one last desperate gamble to avoid defeat

“Let’s burn PC ***and reactivate the rogue squadron of Who dares wins

To go help their military comrades to commit war’s terrible sins”


“If it works; we can shower them with garlands of praise

If we lose; we blame them all for the rest of our days

When they bleed, thirst, shiver, sweat, and die, we’ll turn a blind eye

Soon or late, build another monument and back to sleep, by and by

George Mansford©December 2020

*** PC–Political Correctness


GOOD morning.

Welcome to Russell Offices staff indoctrination training for 2021.

This training will be accompanied by a short PowerPoint presentation and a break for morning tea.

The most important word you will learn here today is “no”, which should be the standard response to most submissions.

Indeed some issues predate the defence records move to Canberra from Melbourne and Ms Gladys Throgmorton, who was promoted to OIC records following forced redundancies of the tea trolley dollies, has produced a very helpful annex to your aide memoires listing these issues.

You will also find at appendix 1 to that annex a standard rejection form that simply requires updating current appointments for your response.

In summary – slide six thanks – that letter has a salutation followed by the standard response; “Your submission into <subject> has been thoroughly reviewed by <actioning branch> and after careful consideration by <department head, only officers full colonel and equivalent and above> you are advised it has been< unsuccessful/rejected>.

Should the actioning staff officer feel the need for further explanation, she may choose a generic response from those listed at appendix 2.

If I might pause momentarily, we have chosen “she” to describe actioning officers since that more accurately reflects majority gender balance on most senior HQ.

In a tight situation there’s the old guaranteed comeback.

“The office of the Governor-General has carefully considered this matter and his/her excellency has advised it does not meet the strict criteria for vice-regal consent and that therefore he/she has reluctantly ruled against its approval.”

This of course places no obligation on the actioning officer’s part to actually submit the correspondence to Government House for vice-regal consideration.

The final par states “No further correspondence will be entered into” followed by a closing salutation.

This is best done personally by hand for the senior officer responsible for the issue.

Again, no need to refer up, but you should memorise the chain of responsibility in your section.

Let’s look at some stubborn cases. In the event you receive a persistent inquiry from an individual, particularly one still serving, a word with officer career management can have the correspondent posted into the relevant position responsible for research and response.

This always imposes a convenient delay.

Remember, saying yes requires considering an issue.

No is always the easy way out.

Finally, are there any questions?

No? I thought as much.


VETERANS and their families in Adelaide are a step closer to having a one-stop shop to access localised services and support based at the landmark Veteran Wellbeing Centre at the Repat.

Following extensive consultation with the veteran community, four service providers have been chosen to provide services to veterans and their families through the Veteran Wellbeing Centre:

  • Plympton Veterans Centre – A community of learning where volunteer advocates can learn from each other to ensure the best possible outcomes for veterans and their families
  • Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling – Australia’s leading provider of high quality mental health assessment and clinical counselling for Australian veterans and their families
  • Returned and Services League (RSL) South Australia – Established in 1916, RSL SA has more than 9000 members and a network of 130 sub-branches, and its core business revolves around advocacy, services, mateship, commemoration and sustainability within the veteran community
  • Soldier On – A national not-for-profit organisation that supports Australian Defence Force personnel, veterans and their families to build better futures

Federal Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said the service providers’ tenancy will ensure the delivery of dedicated, high quality care to veterans.

“The Adelaide Veteran Wellbeing Centre will house assistance from government, health services, ex-service organisations (ESOs), other veteran services providers and community groups all in the one location,” Mr Chester said.

“The Federal and South Australian Governments are committed to putting veterans and their families first, and it is important we all work together to continue to improve their health and wellbeing, and to provide individualised services based on local veterans’ needs.

“I thank the South Australian Government for their commitment to this project and acknowledge the strong advocacy of the Member for Boothby, Nicolle Flint, in supporting veterans and their families in her local community.”

The new Centre will be based within the former Sleep Studies Centre and Schools Patriotic Fund (SPF) Hall buildings at the Repat in Daw Park. Veterans and their families will be able to access services and programs in a friendly, welcoming environment where their unique experiences are understood and supported, and their military service is respected.

South Australian Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said the Marshall Liberal Government was committed to reactivating the Repat as a thriving health precinct, which maintains the close ties the site has in providing care to the veterans’ community over eight decades.

“The chosen service providers have significant experience in delivering high quality services to veterans and the veteran community. Having them co-located in the Centre will strengthen relationships, improve service coordination, advocacy and integrate health promotion activities, to achieve better health and wellbeing outcomes for our veterans and their families,” Mr Wade said.

“Veterans have strong connections to the Repat. The Veteran Wellbeing Centre will be an important part of the veteran community and we are looking forward to the establishment of this milestone in veteran care.”

The services available through the providers will include accredited veteran wellbeing and compensation advocacy services, mental health assessment and clinical counselling, and a range of health and wellbeing programs including employment, education and social connection.

The Centre will sit within a broader ‘Veterans’ Precinct’ at the Repat site, ensuring the Repat Chapel, Remembrance Gardens, Museum and SPF Hall are protected and preserved as community assets.

Member for Boothby Nicolle Flint said the $5 million provided by the Federal Government to the SA Veteran Wellbeing Centre delivered on an election commitment to provide more localised support to veterans and their families.

“It is so important that our veterans and their families have a dedicated place where they can go to connect with one another and to also access the assistance they need,” Ms Flint said.

“The Veteran Wellbeing Centre is a key feature of the new Repat Precinct and has only come about because of the tireless efforts of our veterans who campaigned to put a stop to the closure of the Repat.

“The reactivated Repat is in the heart of my local community and I worked hard to see the Federal and State Governments join forces to redevelop this important health precinct, including to return a Veterans presence to the Repat.”

The chosen service providers will be the first of a number of organisations to contribute to the development of the Veteran Wellbeing Centre. An Expression of Interest is open until 8 January seeking organisations to register their interest and in supplying services to veterans and the veteran community, within or in partnership with the Centre. The Expression of Interest document and response template can be accessed at www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/veteranshealth.

Works are underway for the new Veteran Wellbeing Centre and are expected to be completed by April 2021.

The Australian Government committed $30 million at the 2019 election to develop a network of six Veteran Wellbeing Centres across Australia in partnership with ESOs and state and territory governments. For more information about the Veteran Wellbeing Centres, visit the DVA website www.dva.gov.au/wellbeing-centres.


A South Australian veteran is the first to receive an assistance dog from one of two new providers under the Australian Government’s Psychiatric Assistance Dog Program.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said Xena, trained by the Royal Society for the Blind (RSB) in South Australia, has now been handed over to a veteran to support them with managing their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“These dogs are specially trained to perform tasks that help with the recovery of their veteran handler and are trained to detect signs of distress and perform specific tasks to help alleviate those symptoms,” Mr Chester said.

“We are hearing stories every day of how the program is changing the lives of our veterans and improving their quality of life by helping them manage their PTSD symptoms on a daily basis.

“RSB is a 136-year-old organisation and their experience in training our canine companions will go a long way towards supporting veterans to manage their PTSD, which in turn helps those families that provide vital support.

“The Government’s program continues to deliver positive results by providing a psychiatric assistance dog to eligible veterans with PTSD as part of their ongoing mental health treatment plan.”

Xena and her veteran handler have now completed their training and share each day together.

“Xena has been just wonderful for me. She has made me feel calmer, more settled, and my housemates have already commented on the changes in me,” the veteran said.

“I just feel more grounded, and less anxious with her by my side. When I go to university, she has made me feel more comfortable as a part of a crowd, and better able to engage with my fellow students.”

The program has grown to include four providers across Australia, with 13 psychiatric assistance dogs having passed their all-important training and more than 80 dogs are in training.

“Since the program was announced in September 2019, more than 200 requests from veterans interested in adding an assistance dog to their treatment plan have been received,” Mr Chester said.

“This is just one of the ways we are putting veterans and their families first, and I look forward to seeing more eligible veterans experiencing the difference an assistance dog can make to their lives.”

RSB are one of four providers of psychiatric assistance dogs through DVA, which includes Integra Service Dogs, Smart Pups Assistance Dogs, and the Centre for Service and Therapy Dogs Australia.

The program is available to eligible veterans who have a diagnosis of PTSD and forms part of their current PTSD treatment plan. Veterans currently accessing treatment for PTSD may wish to speak to their mental health professional to see if a psychiatric assistance dog would be a suitable adjunct to treatment.  For more information about DVA’s Psychiatric Assistance Dog Program visit the DVA website.




The contributors named below were junior Officers, NCOs, or Diggers in Vietnam. We served in combat roles with 2RAR/NZ (Anzac) Battalion May 1970 to June 1971, experiencing the horrors and triumphs of armed conflict. We understand the ongoing effects on ourselves and our comrades. We wish to record our disappointment and distress on how the allegations of atrocities in Afghanistan have been addressed by the Prime Minister, and in particular the Chief of the Defence Forces.

Prior to the release of the report the Prime Minister created an expectation of horror, with at least an impression that the contents were proof of criminal conduct by members of SAS Regiment. On the release of the report his obvious rage supported the impression he had given the week before. To confirm that impression he advised that he had formally apologised to the Government of Afghanistan. It is not unreasonable to conclude that the various addresses adopted a ‘Presumption of Guilt’, contrary to Australian Law and the UN Charter.

The Chief of the Defence Force essentially echoed the words of the Prime Minister. He compounded the issue by not only adopting the ‘Presumption of Guilt’, but by announcing outrageous initial retributions that would be imposed. The Chief of the Defence Force then offended many veterans and current service members by restating the unfortunate observation in the report that ‘no officers were involved’ in the various activities. No mention of the other 26,000 armed service personnel who served there, many of whom sacrificed life and limb and mental health, and insulting many officers who consider that they are an integral part of the unit they serve or served with. His address was insulting, inappropriate, self-serving, and extremely poor leadership. The Chief of the Defence Force may well be a person to bear part of the responsibility for the numerous failures obvious in the conduct of the conflict.

The Prime Minister and the Chief of the Defence Force were intense in their moral indignation, clearly intended to represent their responses and behaviour as virtuous. Having clearly adopted and encouraged the Presumption of Guilt, then promised all accused an independent investigation and a fair trial.

It may be the case that no officer has been identified as being involved in any of the events. To suggest that for a period of more than five years and thirty nine atrocities, not one officer was close enough to his troops, or had access to the usual boozer gossip to at least be aware of some allegations, is simply not credible.

Official reports inform that in the period 2001 – 2016, a total of fifty six Australian service personnel were killed in action, and three hundred and seventy three of the veterans who served in that period committed suicide. The suicide rate was seven times more than battle casualties. What more warning was required to the Government and the military hierarchy to thoroughly investigate the causes of suicide and develop appropriate responses?  To our national shame the suicide rate has increased and is more likely to be ten times above battle fatalities, with another nine suicides in the last few weeks. If the same proportions applied to all wars we have been involved in, we would have experienced over one million suicides. Unimaginable.

It may be that with the retirement of General Peter Cosgrove, the army lost the last Commander who had any serious and life-threatening battle experience. Those who followed were undoubtedly qualified academically, but may not, and probably could not, have a meaningful understanding of the psychological impacts of battle, including the impact of over exposure to traumatic experiences, the initial paralysis of fear, the horror of loss or mutilation of comrades, and the images that will never be erased.

It is a simple reality that soldiers dehumanise their immediate enemy combatants. Any one of sound mind could not callously take the life of another non-combatant human being, yet innocents have been massacred in every war in history. It is only when the perpetrator dehumanises an entire country or a section of a country, that this will happen, and has happened throughout history, and continues in many conflicts today. The focus for Australia, at least from 2016, should have been on the origins of mental health issues, starting with the initial recruitment, basic and corps training, leadership, tolerance assessment, and over exposure to battle.

Many SASR soldiers have served multiple tours of Afghanistan. Up to six or eight tours is not uncommon, with one reported as having had sixteen tours. In time spent in actual operations on six tours, it would equate to the actual time spent in operations that a digger would have served in the entire WW2. Sixteen tours would equate to the total time spent in operations in all wars since Federation. How the hierarchy could have approved and encouraged that level of multiple tours, especially after the 2016 report, is incomprehensible and requires explanation.

The Australian Defence Forces senior management, including the Chief of the Defence Forces, will eventually have to answer for their failures.

We do not in any way condone any violations of the Geneva Convention, notwithstanding that in both Vietnam and Afghanistan our enemies were not distracted by any such niceties. We are however determined to ensure that all relevant matters required to give a complete perspective are canvassed, and that the accused are not sacrificed at the altar of the bureaucracy.

Any of those accused who are of sound mind and are found or plead guilty will have seriously diminished the proud reputation Australians have earned in battle since Federation. They will receive no sympathy.


D.W.Horrigan DCM                                               Rifleman

P.M.Wood MID                                                      Section Commander

B.R.Seeley MID                                                       Platoon Sergeant

R.G.Franklin                                                             Platoon Commander

T.H.O’Neill                                                                Platoon Commander

P.D.Savage MC                                                       Platoon Commander