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Previous Ministers' releases and speeches - Senator The Hon. Michael Ronaldson

Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC
Special Minister of State

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Wednesday, 26 March 2014
MIDA0138

Ministers Statement – Serving Our Country

Firstly, I would like to acknowledge all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and women who have proudly served our country in every war, conflict and peacekeeping mission in which Australia has participated and pay my respects to them.

It is appropriate that the theme for NAIDOC Week 2014 is "Serving Country: Centenary and Beyond".

As Minister, I am committed to building on the relationships we have with the Department of Defence, the Australian War Memorial, and other national key stakeholders who have an active interest in supporting our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service men and women. Expanding on these relationships will enable my Department to create more awareness and improve access to support services.

Over the last decade my Department has established a number of initiatives to assist Aboriginal and Torres Islander servicemen, women and their families to better engage with the Department. These include:

  • The creation of an Indigenous Veteran Liaison Office Network, headed up by a dedicated National Indigenous Liaison Officer, Mr Leith Dewis;
  • A number of commemorative grants dedicated to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander war service;
  • The development of a resource book for Primary and Secondary Schools on Indigenous Service from the First World War to the present; and
  • The 2013 launch of an Indigenous Champion Project.

Today, I would like to especially mention my Department’s contribution of $400,000 to the Australian National University coordinated project ‘A history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the defence of Australia’. My Department, has partnered with the Department of Defence, the Australian War Memorial, the National Australian Archives of Australia and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies for the Serving our Country project.

The ANU research project will be an in-depth social history exploring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander involvement in all conflicts from the Boer War and throughout the twentieth century. This project is of national significance and clearly aligns with my Department’s role in acknowledging and commemorating the service and sacrifice made by all Australians in the Australian Defence Force.

Over the next four years, I am looking forward to seeing this significant project come to fruition under the leadership of Professor Mick Dodson AM and the team of researchers at the ANU.

This important work will provide the Government with a broad range of findings and insights on how we can reach, engage, recognise and better assist our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and women and future veterans.

Thank you

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) and Veterans Line can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free and confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046

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