Honourable Members of the Tasmanian Parliament and local Government. Senior representatives of Tasmania’s defence forces and returned service men and women, especially Mr Robert Dick, State President, RSL Tasmania.
A warm welcome to everyone here today – and a particular to the special guests: the author of “Our Heroes” – and member for Lyons, Guy Barnett MP; and Mr Doug Baird, the father of Corporal Cameron Baird VC MG.
Tasmania has a long and proud military history.
From the Boer War to more recent campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, Tasmanians have been at the forefront in answering our nation’s call.
Whilst all those who have served in our nation’s uniform provide us with a great example of service and sacrifice, we mark the valour of a select group of Tasmanians - those who have been awarded a Victoria Cross.
The Victoria Cross is our nation’s highest award for acts of bravery – committed in the face of the enemy - in wartime.
Since being instituted by Queen Victoria in 1856, only one hundred Victoria Crosses have been awarded to Australians. Of them, an astounding number - 14 - being Tasmanians.
Sadly, the award is often made posthumously – in recognition of extraordinary courage, gallantry and the ultimate sacrifice.
The fourth edition of 'Our Heroes - Tasmania's Victoria Cross Recipients’ by the Hon Member for Lyons, Guy Barnett, honours those great Tasmanians.
It provides us with an insight into the battles and conflicts in which these brave men served—from the Boer War to Afghanistan.
It starts with the stories of two of Australia’s first VC recipients in 1900, Trooper John Bisdee and Lieutenant Guy Wylly—both of whom were Tasmanians.
Eleven Tasmanians were awarded the Victoria Cross following service in World War 1, including the man often described as the ‘most decorated infantry soldier of the British Empire during the First World War’, Lieutenant Colonel Harry Murray VC—born and raised in Evandale.
The 100th Australian to receive a Victoria Cross was Burnie-born Corporal Cameron Baird for his actions in, Afghanistan on 22 June 2013.
Described by the Department of Defence as “…an outstanding Special Forces soldier… he exemplified what it meant to be a Commando.”
To Doug and Kaye, and the Baird family, we thank you for being here today. And Australia thanks you for the courageous service of your son to our nation, and honours him for valour.
Author Guy Barnett has superbly documented the stories of our VCs, as a tribute to their memory.
As Parliamentary Secretary Guy’s work includes a great commitment to supporting Tasmania’s veterans and ex-serving community, as well as those currently serving in our defence forces.
Coupled with a keen interest in Australia’s military heritage and proud history, “Our Heroes” serves as an enduring testament to VC recipients, and indeed all Tasmanians who have served, and their families.
As a Senator in our Federal Parliament, Guy was instrumental, with the Murray Memorial Committee, in obtaining funding from the Federal Government for a fine statue memorialising Harry Murray VC, at his birthplace in Evandale.
Guy has also worked with the State RSL to have plaques mounted at the sites of the birthplace of each of Tasmania’s Victoria Cross recipients.
He spearheaded the campaign to have the iconic ‘Fuzzy-Wuzzy Angels’ of the Kokoda Trail in the Second World War recognised for their service and has been involved for many years in the campaign to have Teddy Sheean’s bravery recognised with a Victoria Cross.
In this special year, as we commemorate the Centenary of ANZAC - 100 years of service and sacrifice by Australian service men and women in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations – we also honour the ANZAC spirit of endurance, courage, integrity, good humour and mateship that lives on in the spirit of Australians today.
This book captures that spirit.
Congratulations and thank you, Guy, on the launch of your fine work “Our Heroes”.