“COURAGE, determination, resourcefulness and unflinching loyalty to mates” marked Australia’s Vietnam war experience, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has told parliament.
SPEAKING on the 49th anniversary of the battle of Long Tan on Tuesday, Mr Abbott said he regretted that back home we did not always appreciate our veterans and their virtues at the time. It is now half a century since the Australian taskforce departed for what became Australia’s most controversial post-war conflict, claiming the lives of 521 diggers.
Earlier the prime minister attended the commemorative service at the National Vietnam War Memorial in Canberra, where he said courage and selflessness was on display at Long Tan, at the battles of Coral and Balmoral and at countless contacts and firefights throughout the war.
“They did their duty, they did us proud and their sacrifice should never be forgotten by the country they served,” he said.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who also attended the commemorative service, said like Lone Pine or Tobruk, Long Tan resonated with all Australians and was etched in our collective memory. In that battle, 108 Australian soldiers confronted a vastly superior enemy force in the Long Tan rubber plantation. Eighteen died in what’s become the best known, although not the biggest, battle in which Australians fought in Vietnam. Mr Shorten said the war in Vietnam was a difficult ordeal for tens of thousands of young Australians.
“There is a painful legacy that our veterans and their loved ones have had to endure in shared pain and stress – people killed, people wounded, more with hidden scars,” he said. That was compounded by the shroud of national neglect and rejection which lasted far too long.
“We must keep our promises to the families of the fallen and to all our veterans, including the next generation of diggers as they are adjust to life after Afghanistan,” the Labor leader said.
Veterans Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson later announced grants of between $4000 and $20,000 to develop projects to help commemorate the 50th anniversary next year. An essay competition will be run in Australian schools and the winners brought to Canberra for anniversary commemorations.