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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.

I extend my best wishes and season’s greetings to you and your families.

Over the course of the year I have had the great privilege 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 take time to reflect on our accomplishments and the challenges we will confront in the future.

This year has been an extremely busy year for the ADF. We have continued to conduct operations in Afghanistan, East Timor and Solomon Islands, peacekeeping in Sudan, border security and substantial humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations at home and abroad.

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 in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Sudan, Solomon Islands and East Timor.

We have seen our forces in Afghanistan make good progress in their mission to train the Afghan National Security Forces to take on lead responsibility for security in Uruzgan by 2014. We take great pride in the men and women who are working in difficult conditions every day to help bring about peace and stability in a country that needs the international community’s assistance.

Christmas will of course be a very difficult time for 32 families who will be reminded that their loved one, a son, father, husband or partner, is not with them. For 11 families this will be a terrible time because it will be the first Christmas without their loved one.

We honour and remember the brave young Australians who have lost their lives serving their country. Our eternal gratitude continues and the nation’s thoughts and continuing support are with their families and friends.

Over the course of the year the Defence Organisation has seen many changes. New capabilities have been acquired such as ADF Ship Choules, a fifth C-17A and the start of the purchase process for a sixth, and the purchase of 101 new Bushmasters.

We welcomed new Service Chiefs and a new Secretary. I thank them for their efforts since their appointments and look forward to working with them next year.

During the past year, the ADF has also delivered life-saving humanitarian and emergency assistance to the people of New Zealand, Japan, Tuvalu and of course here at home, building on our proud tradition of humanitarian relief to disasters.

As I have travelled around bases and Defence sites in Australia and overseas, I am impressed by the commitment, enthusiasm, focus and professionalism shown by the men and women of the ADF.

Australia is thankful for your service. You are part of a proud Australian tradition going back more than a century and its importance does not diminish.

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. I look forward to working with you all in 2012 to meet the challenges ahead.

Stephen Smith MP
Minister for Defence

I extend my best wishes and season’s greetings to you and your families.

Since becoming Defence Minister in September, I have had the pleasure of meeting a range of Defence personnel, both here and overseas.

Two weeks into my term as Defence Minister, I visited Australian troops serving in Afghanistan. This helped me gain a better understanding of the conditions that our personnel are facing on the ground. We have great pride in the men and women who are working hard every day to help bring about the peace and stability of a country that needs the international community’s assistance.

Australian Defence Force personnel are also playing a significant role in peacekeeping missions in our region and further afield. We have ADF members serving in East Timor, the Solomon Islands and Sudan.

Over the past year, the ADF has also delivered life saving humanitarian and emergency assistance to the people of Haiti, Fiji and Pakistan, building on a proud tradition of humanitarian response to disasters in our region and beyond.

As I travel around bases and sites in Australia, I am impressed by the commitment, focus and professionalism of the men and women who work in Defence, both military and civilian.

In a speech to the House of Representatives on 25 November I placed on record my thanks to the men and women of Defence including the Chief of the Defence Force Angus Houston and the Secretary of the Department Ian Watt for the invaluable work you do in Australia’s national security interests.

For most of us the festive season is a time spent with family and loved ones. At this time, we keep in our thoughts those who are on duty abroad in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Egypt, Iraq, Sudan, the Solomon Islands and East Timor. Australia is thankful for your service, as it is thankful to all those who serve the nation’s defence. You are part of a proud Australian tradition going back more than a century and its importance does not diminish.

Christmas will of course be a very difficult time for 21 families who will be reminded that their loved one – a son, father, husband or partner – is not with them.  For 10 families this will be a terrible time because it will be the first Christmas where their loved one will be missing.

We honour and remember the brave young Australians who have lost their lives serving their country. Our eternal gratitude continues and the nation’s thoughts are with their families and friends at this time.

I wish all the members of Defence and their families a peaceful Christmas and a safe and happy new year.  I look forward to a productive 2011 and to working with you to meet the challenges of the year ahead.

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