Veterans gratitude grievance

Mr DULUK (Waite) (12:09): I also rise to speak on this highly commendable motion that has been brought forward by the member for Hammond to highlight such an important part of our community. I know this is an issue of real importance for the member for Hammond, so I thank him for bringing it to the house. Indeed, our community would be nothing without our veterans, and it is right and proper that we should always express our deep gratitude for them, for their service and for protecting our freedoms and our nation for over a century now since the creation of the Australian Defence Force.

Ex-service organisations are an integral part of our wider communities and provide an important space for our ex-service personnel. While these organisations have been at the front of our minds recently with the recent ANZAC Day commemorations just past, it is vital that we continue to recognise their work and support them all year round. I would like to make mention of some of the fantastic veteran outreach work that occurs in my community. This mainly happens through the Blackwood RSL, the Mitcham RSL, the Colonel Light Gardens RSL and the RAAF Association Mitcham Branch.

Each group is run by dedicated veterans and volunteers who commit their time and effort to ensuring local veterans have a welcoming place to support them in their life after serving the Australian people. Many of our World War II veterans who are still with us are now well into their 90s. Providing welfare and wellbeing for those veterans is so important. Residents at Myrtle Bank, on the edge of my community, certainly appreciate that. Welfare and wellbeing across the board is such an important connection for these people.

I am honoured to be the patron of the Blackwood RSL, and I regard it as an absolute privilege to be able to spend time there with local veterans and volunteers and hear their stories and continuously work with the volunteers to promote the good work of the RSL.

For all RSLs this year, ANZAC Day services presented a tough challenge in the world of COVID-19 restrictions. COVID-19 directions meant that local RSLs had further administrative steps to deal with and costs to incur when attempting to organise this year's services. With my office working closely with the Blackwood RSL for their dawn service arrangement, I know firsthand how difficult it was for every RSL across the state. There was a lot to organise: fencing, COVID management plans, QR codes, traffic management plans, road closures and detours, sign-in sheets and, in the case of the Blackwood RSL, finding 25 COVID marshals to volunteer their time at 5am.

All that hard work came to fruition when, at dawn on the morning of Sunday 25 April this year, thousands of local residents and veterans gathered together at the soldiers' memorial at the Blackwood roundabout to commemorate the ultimate sacrifice of those whose names are on the statue of the soldier and the service of our veteran community over the last 121 years. It was a solemn occasion, where many local ex-service organisations were represented along with local schools. A particularly moving part of the service were the contributions by local schoolchildren, who spoke about the importance of ANZAC Day and what the day meant to them.

My thanks go to all who volunteered their time to ensure the service was safe and met COVID restrictions and requirements. A big thankyou goes to the volunteers of the RSL, led by the president, Phil Cotton, in his first year as the president of the Blackwood RSL. Thanks also go to the Sturt SES volunteers, Blackwood Hire (to the Quirk family there, thank you very much), City of Mitcham, St John Ambulance, Blackwood Scout Group, Coromandel Community Centre, Blackwood Lions, Coromandel Valley Rotary Club and so many others, including local residents and members of other groups.

I had the privilege of laying a wreath at the Upper Sturt Soldiers Memorial Hall service later that day. Thank you to Dr John Halsey and the whole committee for a wonderful commemoration service, led by retired Colonel Moose Dunlop OAM. Whilst I was not able to attend the Mitcham RSL dawn service, which was a much smaller service this year, I was honoured that Mr Wally Beale OAM, a decorated World War II veteran, and Mr John Hatwell from the RAAF Association Mitcham Branch laid a wreath at the Mitcham RSL on my behalf and on behalf of the community of Waite. Big thanks go to Dr Robert Black AM from the RAAF Association Mitcham Branch for his assistance in organising this.

As touched on by a few other members in this contribution today, the Repat hospital in my community plays a big part, an important role, in supporting veterans and their families and has done so for many years. Indeed, it was the veterans community who slept on the steps of parliament house night upon night, week upon week, and tens of thousands of South Australians signed a petition to ensure that the Repat did not close.

Unfortunately, the former Labor government did close the Repat, and I think that will forever be a great shame to that party and those under their watch who presided over the closure of the Repat. It is fantastic to see at the moment the Liberal government reactivating the Repat with a lot of work from the community. It is fantastic to see the progress of that reactivation.
We will see the new Dementia Care Facility unveiled, and that will create a lot of jobs at the moment. More importantly, in terms of supporting veterans is the opening of the newly refurbished wards for patient care and the opening of the Veteran Wellbeing Centre in the old SPF Hall, which has been so important not only to ANZAC commemorations at the Repat but also to the Vietnam community, especially the Vietnam veterans community.

I want to thank people such as Tich Tyson who does so much work with the Plympton veterans wellbeing centre to support veterans in our community. As so many other members have said, it is important that we support our veterans. We ask them to go above and beyond the call of duty to protect our nation. I support the motion before the house.