18 August 2023
It is an enormous honour to be able to join you here at this beautiful memorial, at the Geebung RSL.
57 years ago today, the Battle of Long Tan was fought. It was fought by Delta Company of 6RAR of the 1st Field Regiment.
Outmatched and outgunned, this small group of Australians, with valour, defended their ground.
It is an action which has become honoured in the annals of our military history.
18 Australians made the ultimate sacrifice in this battle.
And the Battle of Long Tan has come to symbolise the service of the 60,000 Australians who served in the Vietnam War, 523 of whom lost their lives.
And this year, significantly, we remember the 50th anniversary of the end of Australian hostilities within that war.
That moment is significant.
Because while the service and the valour of every person who fought in Vietnam was as extraordinary as any war we have seen, what became unique about those who served is that only half their battle ended on the day they returned.
What then ensued was a country which turned its back on them, and it is a moment in our history which is a very sad chapter.
Those who fought in Vietnam made no decision about whether or not they went.
Indeed, the decision to engage Australia in conflict is one which is difficult, has many factors, is always controversial.
But that we have a Defence Force where people willingly wear the uniform, and their service is immediate and unquestioned, plays such a significant role in keeping our nation safe and building the capacity of our country.
All of that was ignored by our nation in respect of those who returned from Vietnam.
It was years before the proper recognition was accorded to those who had made that fight.
And that meant that there was unnecessary pain and hardship, which was endured for years to come.
And for that, we are deeply sorry.
As we think about this conflict 50 years on, and as we think about the way in which we recognise those who wear our uniform and make the unique contribution of putting on a uniform which they may never take off.
We do so knowing the sacredness of that, and we do so with the deepest gratitude for all of those who served in Vietnam.
Other related releases
Second reading speech, Defence Legislation Amendment (Safeguarding Australia’s Military Secrets) Bill
Address at handover of FSS Bethwel Henry to the Federated States of Micronesia