Standing up for Canberra

Captain Bryce Duffy, Corporal Ashley Birt, and Lance Corporal Luke Gavin 2011

It is with great sadness that I rise once again to offer the condolences of the people of Canberra to the family and friends of Captain Bryce Duffy, Corporal Ashley Birt and Lance Corporal Luke Gavin. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain that their families and friends are going through right now. All I can offer are some humble words to express the deepness of my sympathies and those of my community at this very difficult time.

These three men gave their lives in the service of their country and, although I did not know them, I have no doubt they served with distinction, with honour and with courage in the true spirit that has come to embody the Australian Defence Force. I know Defence is a large organisation and is scattered right across Australia, but here in Canberra it is headquartered and Canberra is a defence town. In the short time I have been member for Canberra, and also in my former life as a consultant to Defence, I have been privileged to meet many of the men and women of the ADF and members of their families. Early this year I was fortunate enough to be able to see their work on the ground in Afghanistan as part of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade mission to Afghanistan as part of the Defence subcommittee.

The soldiers we are mourning today did great work, like the men and women still deployed in Afghanistan. They are rebuilding a nation that, for three decades now, has known nothing but poverty, conflict and oppression. They are making a difference in a very real way to the people of Afghanistan, all the while making sure that we here in Australia are safer and more secure. I know this because while in Afghanistan many Afghanis, especially women, thanked me for what Australia is doing and thanked me for what our international colleagues are doing. They thanked us for the huge international effort that is going on there. I would like to pass on that thanks to the families and friends of Captain Duffy, Corporal Birt and Lance Corporal Gavin.

Every time I meet a member of the ADF I am struck by their professionalism and dedication. More than that, I am struck by the pride they have in their work and the pride they have in their nation. They are truly remarkable people worthy of our respect and appreciation. When I meet their families I see in them the pride they have in their son or their daughter, their mother or their father, their brother or their sister, aunt, uncle, cousin or close friend. It is a large but very close-knit family, and I know they will be reeling from these latest deaths. They will be reeling because their situation will have been made even more difficult by the knowledge that the deaths came not in the heat of battle with the Taliban insurgency but on the training field, at the hands of someone they called an ally.

While there can be no preparation for the death of a loved one, even one serving in this dangerous deployment, to have the death come at the hands of someone you were training and supporting to build a better nation—someone you may have called a mate— must be truly devastating. So, to the families of Captain Duffy, Corporal Birt and Lance Corporal Gavin, I say that, while none of my words will bring them back, please know that my thoughts, Canberra's thoughts and the thoughts of a nation are with you. You are part of an extended family which honours the sacrifice of your loved ones and which will support you now in your time of grief. Everywhere you go in this country, know that you are among friends. I know the Army and the ADF will not let their names, their deeds or their sacrifice fade from the memory of this country—and I know I will not either.

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