Skip to navigation


The Hon Darren Chester MP
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister for Defence Personnel
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC


Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Speech — PM’s Veterans’ Employment Awards

Location: Great Hall, Australian Parliament House


Minister Chester

In recognising the traditional owners of the land and elders both past and present can I say just how pleased I am to see the progress within the ADF at increasing the number of indigenous people in our workplace both in the Navy, Army and Air Force. There’s more work to be done, but we’re heading in the right direction.

In fact, if there is one message I want to leave with you tonight it is simply that. We’re heading in the right direction but there is more work to be done. By working and partnering with government, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Department of Defence, the corporates in the room tonight and the community more generally, we can all help to make a difference. The partnership is going to be critical.

I’d like to formally acknowledge all the defence personnel in the room tonight. The defence service men and women and any veterans. After all this is your night. It is a great occasion to see so many serving men and women in the room here today, people with experience in the defence force. (INAUDABLE)

I want to acknowledge the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for his personal interest in veterans’ issues and the way he worked with my predecessor Dan Tehan to establish these awards and the PM employment initiative. And my colleague Michael McCormack.

But there is actually an upside to the fact that we have had quite a high turnover in the veterans’ affairs portfolio in the last three months. It now means that we actually have two Cabinet Ministers in Dan Tehan and Michael McCormack with direct experience in veterans issues sitting around the Cabinet table and now I have the role in the outer Ministry so it’s good to have Ministers with a great deal of experience and a passion and interest in veterans issues serving around the cabinet table.

I also recognise Amanda Rishworth the Shadow Minister and I know you have a great deal of passion for veterans’ issues as well. There are also several MPs in the room. I won’t name all of them individually again but it’s great to have you here as colleagues and people make sure I stay on the straight and narrow.

Can I recognise the Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs AO CSC, Chief of Army Angus Campbell AO, DSC, Chief Airforce Leo Davies AO, CSC, Sir Angus Houston, AK, AFC, many other distinguished guests, but particularly can I recognise the department staff here tonight, the DVA staff doing an enormous amount of work to get tonight together. Thank you so much for what you do. Often unsung, but I want to recognise you publicly for what you do.

I must say that in the short time that I have had in the role, it’s easy to find fault with the DVA, it’s easy to find fault in others, but all I’ve met is extraordinary professionally people, striving to do the right thing by veterans in our community.
Can I also thank the Industry Advisory Committee members that are here tonight, led by George Frazis. It’s great to see the work you are doing on behalf of the veteran community.

Now, the introduction is probably longer than my whole speech but to the best of my knowledge no one has ever complained about a politicians speech being a bit too short so I’ll try to keep my comments brief and as to the point as I can.

I simply want to thank you all, everyone in this room.

Every year around 5,500 people leave the Australian Defence Force.

For many of those who leave, transition to civilian life is a positive experience. For others, however, it can be a challenging process.

This Government is committed to ensuring that our service personnel are well supported when they transition out of the ADF. And securing meaningful work is critical to that transition.

As I said in the outset, there is more to be done. And we need to do it together.

I want you to help me. I want you to help me to change the conversation in our nation on veteran issues.

Instead of us always talking about the problems, I want to see us talking about the solutions.

Instead of our continued focus on the challenges, I want us talking more about the opportunities that exist for Australian service men and women as they transition into civilian life.

I have been very privileged in my role as a member of parliament. I’ve had the opportunity to see Australian service men and women in action both here and abroad. Before I was the Minister for Infrastructure, I was actually the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence and in that role Australian Defence Force personnel flew me around RAAF bases throughout the nation, they hosted me on their patrol boats, and they’ve given me a tour through the streets of Kabul in an Australian made Bushmaster.

I’ve seen up close the professionalism, the dedication, the leadership, the patriotism, and the pride in our nation. The teamwork and the highly skilled personnel in high pressure environment. Now what employer wouldn’t want those skills in their workplace?

And as Mark Donaldson VC put it simply in our video earlier tonight, they will make your business better.

And Ben Roberts-Smith VC also said tonight, they are looking to be part of something bigger than themselves.
So my challenge to you all tonight is not to leave the enthusiasm and excitement in the room. Keep up the great work you are doing but get out and sell the message as much as you possibly can.

As the Department of Veterans’ Affairs enters its second century, we are determined to put veterans first. We’re determined to put veterans first and put their families first.

And by sharing their success stories tonight we can all see the value of ex-service personnel and encourage more business throughout our nation to value our veterans and hire our veterans knowing that these employees will bring a vast range of skills to their businesses and a vast range of experiences which will support their organisation.

So to the winners and finalists this evening, can I congratulate you and thank you for taking the time to be part of this awards ceremony.

I offer my sincere congratulations and encouragement for you as you go forward in the next twelve months.

Thank you very much.


Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling provides support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Free and confidential help is available 24/7. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 8 8241 4546) or visit