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


Date: 29/03/2018
Time: 09:18 AM

Darren Chester with Kieran Gilbert (Sky News Live)

Station: Sky News Live
Program: AM Agenda


KIERAN GILBERT: As we mentioned earlier, it's believed an Australian Super Hornet pilot accidentally killed two civilians and injured two children in an air strike. This happened in Iraq last year. The missile launched successfully. It killed two Islamic State snipers, but an investigation has found that it is credible that it caused collateral damage. The Defence Minister says the incident is highly regrettable. For more on that, I spoke to the Veterans Affairs' Minister Darren Chester.


DARREN CHESTER: Well naturally, we take any reports of civilian casualties very seriously, and all appropriate precaution has been taken by the ADF – the Australian Defence Force – in terms of our rules of engagement before air strikes are called in. So, it's a concern obviously, but it's something that unfortunately in these tragic circumstances of armed conflict, there are, from time to time, civilian casualties.

KIERAN GILBERT: So, it wasn't a mistake? The two IS combatants were killed apparently, according to these details.

DARREN CHESTER: Well, my understanding of the situation is that all appropriate precautions were taken by our personnel, and we do have very strict rules of engagement under Australian conditions [audio cuts] circumstances. And obviously in these very difficult circumstances there are, from time to time, civilian casualties and have been properly investigated by the coalition forces.

KIERAN GILBERT: So, that's just the nature of war, basically, that civilians are killed from time to time – that's the tragic reality.

DARREN CHESTER: Yeah, and all precautions are taken by our forces when involved, and it's a sad situation obviously, and it's regrettable. But at the same time, our forces have been doing some tremendous work to help with the battles in Iraq and we are very respectful of their service, but recognise that from time to time these tragic circumstances do eventuate.

KIERAN GILBERT: Now, Minister, on another issue, the Prime Minister's Veterans' Awards. Can you talk us through what they're all about?

DARREN CHESTER: Well, it's the Prime Minister's Veterans' Employment Awards. It's all about improving the focus on our veterans when they leave the military service; explaining to the corporate sector more generally that they have a lot of skills which are easily transferable into the business world. And so it's actually breaking whatever barriers might be there, whatever confusion there might be about whether veterans are highly employable or not because these young men and women, quite often, have great skills, a lot of passion, mission-focused, determined, have worked in teams, have leadership ability – all skills that could be easily transferred to the corporate sector. And it's about making sure that our business community values the service of our veterans and sees a new role for them once they leave the ADF.

KIERAN GILBERT: It would also help with any recovery, if necessary, with post-traumatic stress and that sort of thing.

DARREN CHESTER: Absolutely. I think we've got a challenge here to try and change the conversation a little bit to recognise that, yes, some people when they leave the Australian Defence Force may have a need for more intense support through the veterans' support services, and it might be because of mental health issues or physical health issues, and so making sure we have those support measures in place. But also recognising that a lot of them have an enormous range of skills that can really be applied to a new career and they can successfully transfer, that transition can occur very successfully. And we need to make sure we're explaining to the broader community the opportunity exists there, not just looking at the challenges.

KIERAN GILBERT: And a couple of the awards that were announced last night: one for Ironside Recruitment and another for WithYouWithMe. These organisations that have been set up – apparently recruitment organisations – to help veterans move from their service into the workforce.

DARREN CHESTER: And quite often set up by veterans themselves. So, veterans who have an understanding of the unique nature of military service, then getting out into the private sector and saying: well, I know how I can help some of my ex-colleagues, or perhaps younger veterans coming through, how can I help them transition into a new career. So, look, it's exciting programs. First time we've held these awards. The Prime Minister was there last night and there was a real buzz in the room, here in the Great Hall in Parliament, and now we need to take the next step. We need to keep pursuing that agenda, keep talking about it, keep explaining the benefits of employing veterans, and keep talking to our veterans themselves, explaining how once they leave the military there still can be a great career for them, even if they haven't perhaps achieved everything they wanted to while they were in the ADF.

KIERAN GILBERT: Minister, [audio skip] your time. Thanks so much.

DARREN CHESTER: All the best.


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.