Operation SLIPPER commenced – as part of an allied response - following the terrible attacks against the United States on 11 September 2001.
As a nation, we express or gratitude for the heroism, sacrifice and dedication of the Australian men and women who served in Afghanistan and the wider Middle East Area of Operations through Operation Slipper.
Operation SLIPPER was Australia’s contribution to ensuring Afghanistan would never again become a safe haven for terrorism that threatened Australia and the wider world.
But for those who deployed to Op SLIPPER, this was about service to their nation, and loyalty to their mates.
The service of the men and women who served on Op SLIPPER – many who are with us today – has made Afghanistan a better place and provided the Afghan people with the opportunity to determine their own future.
Australia’s mission built schools, health centres, roads and other critical infrastructure in Uruzgan and nearby provinces, giving hope and opportunity to a region that had been devastated by warfare for a generation.
Australians trained, assisted and mentored the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police.
Today, we acknowledge the more than 34,500 Australian soldiers, sailors, airmen, public servants and Australian Federal Police who served.
We acknowledge the 263 wounded.
And for those 41 ADF members who have paid the ultimate price, our offering to them this morning is a respectful silence. Lest we forget.
During this Centenary of Anzac period, we don’t just remember those events of 100 years ago. We also remember the century of service and sacrifice since.
It is not well known that there are now more than 72,000 men and women who have served our nation since 1999, which is more than Vietnam, Korea, Malaya and Borneo combined.
The Centenary is our opportunity to shed a light on the support that our contemporary veterans and their families need.
It is also our opportunity to celebrate the unique contribution that Defence personnel make to our community after they leave the service.
While today we acknowledge past service, we must also remember that today, over 1600 Australian service men and women continue to serve our nation’s vital security interests in the Middle East today.
In February I visited the Middle East and saw the results of your work. Afghanistan is still fragile, but life is better because of the work you have done
To all those who served on Operation SLIPPER, and to your families, on behalf of the Australian people and the Australian Government, I thank you.
***Check against delivery***
Chloe Petch (Minister Andrew’s Office) 0477 395 356
Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999