Valley Veterans: What Vietnam Veterans Day means to those who served

·        Mick Birtles DSC










Soldiers returning from the Vietnam War look on as a protester covered in red paint interrupts the welcome home parade in Sydney in 1966. Photo by Noel Stubbs, Fairfax Media.

Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War continued longer than any other conflict of the twentieth century.  Beginning as a small commitment in 1962 and concluding in 1975.

Approximately 60,000 Australian’s served in Vietnam with the loss of 500 lives and over 3000 wounded. There was little opposition to our participation in the early years, however this changed as perception grew that the war was being lost and conscripts were increasingly being deployed, killed and wounded.

For many of those returning from Vietnam the public anger regarding this country’s involvement in the conflict was personal. Many were shunned and disrespected by elements within the community.

Through the efforts of Vietnam Veterans and their families, the public conscience eventually came to understand that these men and women had been in Vietnam on the direction of their government and were doing their duty. As an act of national recognition, in 1987 Prime Minister Bob Hawke declared the 18th of August each year would be known as Vietnam Veterans Day.

Accepted and respected

There are many Vietnam Veterans who call the Mid North Coast home and I have spoken to a few to get their thoughts on Vietnam Veterans Day.

Mr Wayne Mason of Stuarts Point, a former National Serviceman served in Vietnam as an Infantry soldier. He considers this day is a time to remember all of those who served and did their duty, irrespective of their views on the conflict.

Mr Bill Shepherd of Nambucca Heads, says he does not think back fondly on his time there but remembers those who were killed in action.

 Mr Bill Shepherd in Vietnam during the war and today at home in Nambucca Heads.

Mr Brian Duncan OAM of Nambucca Heads, served in Vietnam with the 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (1 RAR), on the first large deployment of combat troops to Vietnam. He says this day provides comfort to many veterans as it demonstrates they are now accepted and respected by the Australian public.

Each of the three Veterans had a different experience on their return to Australia. Mr Mason recalls arriving back in Australia very late at night and generally being shielded from public view, possibly to avoid protesters.

Mr Shepherd remembers being shunned by one RSL Sub Branch on one occasion as the ‘old and bold’ did not consider Vietnam a war, then being overwhelmingly welcomed by another RSL Sub Branch.

During a welcome home parade for 1 RAR in 1966, Mr Duncan was witness to the much-documented actions of a young lady covering herself with red paint and smearing it on the battalion’s commanding officer.

 Mr Brian Duncan (second from the front) looks on as a protester covered in red paint interrupts the welcome home parade in Sydney in 1966. Photo by Noel Stubbs, Fairfax Media and Mr Duncan OAM at home in Hyland Park, Nambucca Heads.

In response to a question I posed to these gentleman regarding their advice to veterans returning to Australia from recent conflicts, their response was similar.

They recommend accepting any help available, that is intended to assist with integration back into the community, to understand there is help for you and to trust your judgement.

Mr Duncan added it is important not to lose contact with your mates who had been through the experience with you, as it is often they who can best understand issues you may be having and be able to lend a helping hand.

Nambucca Valley commemorations

For the Nambucca Valley the 2018 Vietnam Veterans Day Commemorations will be held at Stuarts Point. The service will begin at 11am (gathering at 10:45 am), August 18, 2018 at the Memorial on the corner of Ocean Avenue and Marine Parade, followed by lunch at the Stuarts Point Bowling Club.

About the author: Mick Birtles is a recently retired army officer now living in Nambucca Heads. During his 36-year career, Birtles served in Bougainville, East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for command and leadership. Here he shares his interest in the issues effecting veterans on the Mid North Coast.

Veterans Race Day – Kilcoy 18th August

The Kilcoy Race club invites you to participate in  the Veterans’ Race Day which will feature the running of the Butler McDermott Lawyers Vietnam Veterans Cup and supported by five other gallop races, three grass Harness paces and three Mini Trots.

A ceremony will be held prior to the first gallop race.


Enjoy the Day

ADFA Open Day 2018

ADFA’s Open Day will be held on Saturday, 25 August 2018 from 9.00 am until 4.00 pm on Northcott Drive in Campbell, ACT. It is your chance to see a range of exciting displays by the Navy, Army and Air Force and learn everything you need to know about life at ADFA.


NAIDOC – Honouring the service and sacrifice of Indigenous service women

MINISTER for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said today that the 2018NAIDOC Week theme of ‘because of her, we can’, is the perfect opportunity to recognise the service and sacrifice of all those Indigenous women who have served the country in uniform.

“Indigenous Australians have made significant contributions to Australia’s military history from the Boer War through to present day conflicts.
“Like their male counterparts, Indigenous women have also made a significant contribution to the defence of the nation through their service,” Mr. Chester said.
“It is difficult to say just how many Indigenous women have served as records of enlistment did not specify ethnicity.
“However, it is known, that Indigenous women served and continue to serve their country with great honour and pride in a range of operations including war, disaster relief, peacekeeping, border protection and emergency defence assistance.
“Some of the Indigenous women who have served in uniform include poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal, a proud Minjerribah woman who enlisted in the Australian Women’s Army Service in December 1942.
“Another is Marj Tripp, a Ramindjeri Elder who was the first Indigenous member of the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service.
“Yet another is Lorraine Hatton, a Quandamooka woman who at the time of her service, was the only Indigenous woman in the Army to hold the rank of Warrant Officer Class 2.
“As Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, it makes me incredibly proud to represent all Australians who have served; especially during NAIDOC Week, when we salute those Indigenous Australians who have donned the uniform and celebrate their achievements, culture, and history,” Mr. Chester said.
Read more about Indigenous service here. (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that photographs on this page may contain images of deceased persons which may cause sadness and distress.

Veterans’ Advocacy and Support Services Study – Brisbane & Townsville Consultations

Members of the veteran, ex-service and Defence communities

I am seeking your input to the Veterans’ Advocacy and Support Services Study at face-to-face meetings in:

 Brisbane on Monday 16 July and Tuesday 17 July, and

 Townsville on Tuesday 7 August and Wednesday 8 August.

I would like to hear from:

  • ex-service organisations
  • advocates and pension and welfare officers
  • clients of advocates and pension and welfare officers
  • clients of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and
  • anyone who has an interest in veterans’ issues.

To book a meeting please go to the website:

If you have any difficulties booking a meeting or have a question, please send an email to [email protected]

If you cannot attend a meeting, I would welcome receiving your views and ideas in a submission. See the website for more information:

Kind regards

Robert Cornall AO
Study Lead

is an independent study investigating how veterans and their families are assisted to access entitlements and services.

Commemoration – 65th Anniversary Korean War Armistice

A national commemorative service to mark the 65th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice will be held on Friday 27 July 2018 at the Australian National Korean War Memorial on Anzac Parade in Canberra.

The Armistice ending three years of fighting on the Korean peninsula was signed on 27 July 1953. The present day border between North and South Korea approximates the border as it was in June 1950 when North Korea invaded the south, beginning a war that pitted the Cold War powers of communist China and the Soviet Union against the United States and her allies, fighting under United Nations’ auspices, in a massive military confrontation.

All three of Australia’s armed services took part in the Korean War. The Royal Australian Navy committed ships four days after the war began; the Royal Australian Air Force’s 77 Squadron was deployed to Korea within a week of the invasion, and the first Australian ground troops arrived in September 1950. Approximately 17,000 Australian personnel served in Korea, including Army and RAAF nurses. Some 340 lost their lives, more than 1,200 were wounded and 30 were taken prisoner.

This is a free event and members of the public are encouraged to attend. This is not a ticketed event and limited, un-allocated seating will be provided for general public. Standing room will be available once the unallocated seating area has reached capacity.

For more information, please email [email protected]

CSC and the Royal Commission – Protest Rally

Our planned protest rally yesterday 28th June in Brisbane was successful in achieving our goals: to publicly promote the matters by our presence outside the entrance to the Royal Commission Hearings, to gain media attention and to deliver a letter to the Royal Commissioner The Hon K. M. Hayne AM.

We had a good turnout of supporters both younger and older veterans and some with their wives. Present were Brad Campbell and members of Australian Veterans Alliance who run the Veteran Clawback group, John Lowis from DFWA, Ted Chitham from ADSO, Robert Cross, Rod Slater and Gary McMahon from the RAR Association and others with an assistance dog to hold the placards, handout fllyers and information sheets and answer questions from the public


(some of the “Protest Team” – Rod Slater was the photographer.)

It was good to see the effect of collaboration between the different ESO’s.

We were pleased to be allowed by the Royal Commissioner to hand deliver a personal request letter addressed to him through a Royal Commission staff person. The letter endorsed by ADSO, the RSL, and the Australian Public Sevice superannuation association/organisations – The Superannuated Commissioned Officers Association (SCOA) and the Australian Council of Public Sector Retiree Organisations (ACPSRO), urged the Commissioner to remedy the exclusion of the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation from the Royal Commissions Terms of Reference by a recommendation to the Federal Government. Ted Chitham, Brad Campbell and John Lowis were able to brief the staffer on the reasons for our request.  We are hopeful that the Commissioner will support our request.

Brad and Ted were interviewed by both TV Channels 7 and 10 and the ABC said they would do a phone interview with Brad next week from the Royal Commission when they cover Superannuation in Darwin. There is No guarantee of being aired, but we can only hope.

A big thank you to John Lowis for organising the event and a huge thank you to those that turned up. Awesome effort by all.

Stand ready for further action


VIDEO – #Vetrans Clawback – CSC & The Banking Royal Commission


The only significant Superannuation Organisation NOT included in the Australian Banking Royal Commission is the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation. The CSC. It manages our Military Super.

The Defence Community has been pleading for the Turnbull Govt to give them a Fair Go – just like all other Australians – and have their super fund scrutinised like the all others.

The Labor Opposition supports the call for a Fair Go.

The Govt has dug in and says the CSC is “well regulated and scrutinised.” That’s what they said about the banks!

With elections looming the Defence Community wishes to see who is going to fight for us.
Please call your local Federal MP and ask for their support and participate in our ADSO actions.

CSC and the Royal Commission – Summary & Actions

Summary Update

 “Why is the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation excluded from the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry?

The Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation (CSC) administers military and other superannuation public service funds for over 700,000 people of which 230,000 are serving and former servicemen and women.

The Royal Commission’s Terms of Reference say: “All Australians have the right to be treated honestly and fairly in their dealings with…. superannuation…. providers.”

Why is our superannuation provider excluded from Royal Commission scrutiny?

Why deny us an equal voice in making submissions to the Royal Commission?

The following representations have been made to PM and the Government  since the announcement of the Royal Commission:

13 December 2017: Media Release – Calls to clarify the Terms of Reference of the Royal Commission into Banking and Superannuation.

18 January 2018joint Media Release with RSL re Royal Commission into the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.

7 June 2018 at the Longman Electorate Forum a younger veteran asked the PM the Why question. The PM answered “I don’t know but I;ll find out and get back to you”

15 June 2018 An Open Letter sent to the PM and all Federal Parliamentarians, the Defence Family network and national media outlets and social media.

More recently representations to the PM by both the  Australian Public Services – Superannuated Commissioned Officers Association (SCOA) and the Australian Council  of Public Sector Retiree Organisations  (ACPSRO) have made the same requests for CSC’s inclusion in the Royal Commission

The ALP supports the inclusion of the CSC into  the Royal Commission’s Terms of Reference

To date the Government and PM have not formally responded to our representations


Veteran Clawback – CSC & The Banking Royal Commission

CSC Campaign: Veteran Protest Rally – 28 June 2018

As part of our campaign to seek inclusion of the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation (CSC) in the Royal Commission into the Banking, Superannuation and Finance Services Industry, a Dignified Veteran Protest Rally will be staged when the Royal Commission convenes in Brisbane on 28 June.

Our aim is to draw media and public attention to our cause and have the Veteran Voice be heard at the Royal Commission.


 CSC Flyer

CSC Campaign: Veteran Protest Rally

As part of our campaign to seek inclusion of the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation (CSC) in the Royal Commission into the Banking, Superannuation and Finance Services Industry, a Dignified Veteran Protest Rally will be staged when the Royal Commission convenes in Brisbane on 28 June.

Our aim is to draw media and public attention to our cause and have the Veteran Voice be heard at the Royal Commission.

We will also use the opportunity to draw attention to past Government practice of making retrospective changes to the rules of law that affect veteran benefits.

You’re invited to  join us and show your support to the younger Veterans in this “Dignified Protest”. If you are in the Brisbane area, come along for 15 minutes or more, and have a chat to the younger Veterans who are affected by unfair CSC policies. They will value your support. BYO coffee.

Get a photo of yourself holding a placard (they will be provided) – Bragging rights to your kids and grandkids of you participating in a “Demo”, then go have a coffee with mates in the Roma Street Gardens.

When: Thursday 28th June. From 0945 to 1130.

Where: Outside Brisbane Magistrates Court, 363 George Street, Brisbane. (People and media will be arriving for the Royal Commission Hearings starting at 1000hrs.)

Dress. Smart Casual or better, with Medals – as you would wear on Anzac Day. Service dogs welcome.

We need your support so spread the word on social media and bring your mates