Today, 250 Australian Defence Force servicemen and women from the 1st Brigade were honoured for their service in Afghanistan and the Middle East Area of Operations.
It was a tremendous privilege to meet some of these fine men and women in Afghanistan – and it’s an even greater privilege to welcome them home today.
All Australians are proud of them and in awe of their courage and sacrifice. They have spent long periods of time thousands of kilometres from home and their families, put themselves in unimaginable danger and lived with the constant uncertainty of what the next day will bring.
There are no words that can accurately convey the gratitude of our nation for their fine service.
We pay special tribute to their families: the wives, husbands, partners, children and parents. While there were many happy faces today, it is hard to imagine few things more difficult than waiting at home for the safe return of a loved one from war.
We also honour the families of the 40 Australians who died while serving in Afghanistan – their loss is felt every day, and hardest on days like today. We will never forget their sacrifice.
Afghanistan has been Australia’s longest war and the servicemen and women of the 1st Brigade – along with all who have served - should be rightly proud of their efforts to make Afghanistan a safer place.
I am proud of them, the Coalition and the Australian Labor Party are proud of them - all Australians are proud of them.
We also remember the 400 ADF personnel who remain in Afghanistan and their families back here at home.
The remarkable work that they are doing to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Army, and support the broader ISAF mission, is vital to ensuring a stable peace and a better future for Afghanistan.