I have had the great privilege this year to meet and talk with Defence personnel and their families, both here and overseas.
As the year draws to a close, we are able to reflect on our accomplishments and the challenges we will continue to confront.
We have continued to conduct operations in Afghanistan, East Timor, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, the Middle East and support to border security, as well as assisting Australians affected by flooding earlier this year.
For most of us the festive season is a time spent with family and loved ones. At this time, please keep in your thoughts those who are on duty abroad.
The Australian-led International Stabilisation Force in East Timor started its drawdown in November, with most Australian forces to return home by the end of 2012. ADF personnel who served in Timor-Leste have shown great courage and dedication, and built strong personal relationships with Timor-Leste that will last long after the withdrawal of our security forces.
We have seen the start of independent operations by the 4th Brigade Infantry Kandaks. This is a significant step in the process of transition to Afghan-led security responsibility in Uruzgan. We take great pride in the men and women who are working in difficult conditions every day in a country that needs the international community’s continued support.
Christmas will, of course, be a very difficult time for 39 families who will be reminded that a father, husband, partner, son or brother is not with them. For seven families this will be a terrible time because it will be the first Christmas without their loved one.
We honour and remember those brave Australians who have lost their lives serving their country.
On behalf of my ministerial and parliamentary colleagues and all Australians, we wish all members of the ADF, their families and friends a peaceful Christmas and a safe and happy New Year.