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The Hon Dan Tehan MP
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC
Minister for Defence Materiel

Friday, 4 March 2016

Remembering Brigadier Bill Rolfe AO (Retd)

The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Dan Tehan, today paid tribute to a distinguished Australian, Brigadier Bill Rolfe AO (Retd), who has died after a long illness.

“I offer my sincere condolences to Brigadier Rolfe’s family and friends as they mourn the loss of a man who served our nation and the community, particularly the ex-service community, with distinction,” Minister Tehan said.

“Brigadier Rolfe was a Royal Military College Duntroon graduate who served as a platoon commander with the 2nd Battalion in South Vietnam and was mentioned in dispatches for his service.

“During operations in Vietnam, he suffered injuries that led to the amputation of both legs below the knee. However, testament to his determination, Brigadier Rolfe overcame this setback, gaining a law degree from the Australian National University and continuing his military career in a variety of legal officer positions.”

In 1982, Brigadier Rolfe was the first Australian officer to attend the Graduate Course at The Judge Advocate General’s School, U.S. Army, in Charlottesville, Virginia. He was then appointed Director of Army Legal Services in 1986 and Director General of Defence Force Legal Services in 1989.

Brigadier Rolfe retired from the Australian Defence Force in 1992, when he joined the National Security Branch of the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Legal Practice.

In 1997, he was appointed as head of the Veterans’ Review Board, an independent statutory tribunal responsible for review of Repatriation Commission decisions on entitlement to, and assessment of, disability pensions. He resigned in 2007 to become a Commissioner of the Repatriation Commission and a Member of the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission, retiring in July 2010.

Brigadier Rolfe was appointed as an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day Honours List in 2008 for services to veterans.

The Minister said Brigadier Rolfe, a highly respected member of Australia’s ex-service community, was involved with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs until his death, most recently in relation to advocacy review work.

“As a result of this work, the creation of a new Advocacy Training and Development Program was endorsed by the ex-service community and the Government in late 2015,” Minister Tehan said.

“Brigadier Rolfe retired as President of Legacy Canberra on 29 January 2016 due to his ill health.

“During this sad time, my deepest sympathies are with Brigadier Rolfe’s widow, Joan Susanne, to whom he was married for more than 40 years, and their three children.”

Media enquiries:

  • Minister Tehan’s Office: 0477 395 356
  • Department of Veterans’ Affairs Media: 02 6289 6203

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 8 8241 4546). VVCS is a service founded by Vietnam veterans.