Mr Deputy Speaker Jones, I too would like to join with my colleagues to commend and congratulate you on this motion. I am an enormous fan of the Australian Defence Force Cadets. From my work as Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Defence and also from, prior to this life, having my own business and spending four years consulting with the Australian Defence Force Cadets, I know from close experience—not only from working with the staff who work with these young people and also from meeting these young people—that it is an extraordinary institution and these individuals are extraordinary individuals. So I do congratulate and commend you for moving this motion.
As I said, I am an enormous fan of this program. It is wonderful to hear the figures. When I was involved in it, I think there were about 20,000 young Australians involved in cadets and now we are up to 25,000. The fact that it is growing is just wonderful. Particularly in these challenging times where the youth are becoming disaffected and, in many ways, disengaged, the fact that we have a youth development organisation that is actually booming, that is growing, is just wonderful.
As has been mentioned by my colleagues, the great thing about cadets is that they learn so much. They learn leadership skills, team building skills and survival skills. They learn resilience, discipline and self-respect. They learn how to build their self-esteem. They learn public speaking skills and they learn teamwork skills. They get to train at barracks and eat at messes. They get to climb all over defence equipment, learn about communications, first aid and orienteering. And, depending on the service that they join—be it navy, army or air force—they can learn how to fly, glide, sail or learn bushcraft. So it does give them an enormous breadth of experience and it is just a sensational organisation.
Spending four years with cadets, I got to see a lot of cadet units right throughout the country. One that really stands in my mind was going up to the opening of TS Carpentaria in Thursday Island, where the cadets had embraced the local culture and the local way of doing things. One of the major activities that those kids were involved in was going out and fishing, as the community are great fishers. That was a core part of the cadet program there, in addition to the more generic cadet elements.
I also got to go to an Indigenous cadet unit in Nhulunbuy. That was also terrific. When I was in cadets they were introducing a program for Indigenous cadets. One was on Palm Island, and they were looking at broadening them throughout Australia—getting the young Indigenous communities focused on building self-esteem, building selfconfidence and getting those resilience and leadership skills. It is a vitally important program, particularly in those remote and regional communities.
I also got to go to a parade of the newly built facility for the Army cadets down at Cowra. Again, that was a core part of the youth development culture and activity in that regional centre. It was an incredibly popular activity. But the thing that really stood out for me, apart from TS Carpentaria, was being involved in the cadet survey and the cadet staff survey. As a result of that, I got to visit a number of cadet units right throughout the country and spoke to the staff as well as the cadets. I remember going to Nowra on a Saturday afternoon and meeting a number of the cadets there. The effect that the cadets had had on those young people was absolutely overwhelming. Not only were a number of those young people who attended cadets kids who were underachieving before they went to cadets but they also acknowledged that fact and the fact that cadets had turned around their life. For a number of the kids I met, the meal that they had from the mess was the only hot meal that they had throughout their week. So they had come from some pretty tough environments. I remember one little guy who said to me that before cadets he was getting Ds and Es and then after going to cadets for a year and learning how to build up his self-esteem and confidence he was now getting Bs and As. It had just transformed this kid's life.
Member for Herbert, I cannot commend you enough for introducing this motion. Cadets is an extraordinary organisation and I do commend you. Finally, I want to acknowledge the cadets who were involved in my Anzac Centenary Board. I had two cadets from TS Canberra here. Leading Seaman Zoe Rule and Cadet Petty Officer Alexander Thurgar did a wonderful job in helping me make those decisions.