Interview with Stephanie Ferrier, ABC News Breakfast

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The Hon Matt Keogh MP

Minister for Defence Personnel

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

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Stephanie Mathews on 0407 034 485

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11 November 2022

STEPHANIE FERRIER: Australians will today mark Remembrance Day at 11:00am with a minute's silence in honour of all Australians who have died serving in wars and armed conflicts around the world. Veterans' Affairs Minister Matt Keogh is in Albany, Western Australia, for a service being held there and joins us now. Thanks for coming on the programme.

MATT KEOGH: Morning, Steph. Great to be with you.

STEPHANIE FERRIER: Well, first of all, what's the significance of where you are and what are you hoping to see today in terms of the crowds?

MATT KEOGH: So here in Albany, Western Australia, was the last point of departure from mainland Australia for nearly all of our troops that went off to the First World War, off to Gallipoli and then on to the Western Front. And so Albany has a particular significance and resonance for all of our soldiers that went to fight in the First World War. And at 11:00, as we do around the country, we'll be having a service for Remembrance Day here and we expect to see some pretty good crowds out today. It's a public holiday here in Albany as well, because it's also Albany Show Day, so we should have some good crowds to spot, as you might be able to pick up some looming weather.

STEPHANIE FERRIER: So you've got that in competition. But this is obviously one of the first years that we've had for some time that doesn't have COVID restrictions. How significant is that in terms of being able to make this very special mark of remembrance?

MATT KEOGH: I think the fact that we're now starting to move past the most significant aspects of COVID is really important. I know here in Western Australia, nearly all of our commemoration services, Anzac Day in particular, had to be postponed due to the impacts of COVID. And so the capacity and ability for people to be able to come out and show their respect to wear their poppy on Remembrance Day today is a significant one and I'm sure we'll see lots of people wanting to do that.

STEPHANIE FERRIER: Of course, it is 104 years since the ceasing of hostilities in World War One. Do you think that Remembrance Day still has resonance?

MATT KEOGH: I think Remembrance Day absolutely still has resonance because whilst it's 104 years since the end of the First World War, since then we've had 103,000 Australians that have given their lives in service to their country, as well as many more wounded and, of course, all the families that have been impacted since then. Its only last year that we saw Australia pull out of Afghanistan and of course, we saw just recently the ending of our involvements in Afghanistan and Iraq, military involvement that lasted for 20 years. So we have a significant number of what we now call contemporary veterans, people that have served their nation proudly. And Remembrance Day is an important opportunity as a nation to come together to remember all of our personnel that have given the ultimate sacrifice and service to our nation. And all of those that have served Australia.

STEPHANIE FERRIER: Yes, it's all of those, not just those who were killed on the battlefield because we do obviously know about the psychological toll involved. And in fact we heard from the Victoria Cross recipient, Corporal Daniel Keighran, just a little while ago about that reintegration back into normal life after being in a war zone. What are some of the stories that you hear from people about that change.

MATT KEOGH: And that readjustment that transition from defence services, especially those that have served on operations back into civilian life is a very important one. Making sure that we get that right is certainly an area that we're looking to improve because there is a lot of work to do. It's a significant adjustment for people to make. It is a very different lifestyle, but we are also seeing great success. We know that our defence service personnel, when they re-enter civilian life, are more likely to have better outcomes when it comes to health, when it comes to employment, when it comes to earning and housing. But there are some that really struggle in making that adjustment, especially those that are injured. And through not just defence, but through my other department, the Department of Veterans Affairs, we're doing a lot of work to make sure that we improve that transition for people so that they have the most successful opportunity back in civilian life.

STEPHANIE FERRIER: And yes, there's definitely a lot of support there. We've heard recently just that the hotline established to support military personnel giving evidence into the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide has actually received over a thousand, thousand requests for help. So there is definitely that need. Thank you so much for your time, Matt Keogh.


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