Government must do more for defence personnel: poll

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Hype or heartfelt fervour? How is ANZAC Day regarded in 2019? That’s what we asked you in our most recent Flash Poll.

YourLifeChoices’ 230,000 members hold strong views on most topics and the comments and answers from the 1181 respondents to this poll were no exception. Compassion, respect and sorrow shone through, but were interspersed with anger and cynicism and a call for the Government to do more to support our defence force personnel – a call heeded overnight with the Coalition promising a $63 million package for those who have served in the defence forces.

“ANZAC Day is a day we should remember. We lost the cream of our male crop to a stupid war that was uncalled for. Millions of people died for what? Nothing!” was the angry response from one member.

Another said: “People who know nothing of it attending to pat themselves on the back because they attended a dawn service.” And: “Late Gen X and Gen Y have to go to everything whether they understand and respect it or not – then they party.”

An overwhelming 72 per cent of poll respondents believed the Government was failing to adequately support personnel.

Lou wrote: “My husband is a Vietnam veteran. His father served in World War II. There is no glory in war …We should all be proud of service men and women – past, present and future … Our Government must care for these people throughout their lives … DVA (Department of Veterans’ Affairs) pensions should not be means-tested. If a veteran has made it through to retirement age then he/she deserves to be rewarded. Wave the flag, politicians, but back up your patriotism with real support.”

Trebor added: “We need a VETS – Veterans Employment Transition Service  – and some real opportunity in this once-great nation and not just the parcelled-out nonsense that masquerades as opportunity (but [which is] only for selected groups).”

As if hearing member concerns, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that if re-elected on 18 May, the Coalition would spend $30 million building a series of veterans’ wellbeing centres with another $16.2 million going to Soldier On, Team Rubicon and RSL state branches for programs to help former servicemen and women find meaningful jobs.

Amidst the frustration expressed by many poll respondents was a deluge of comments that showed just how special the day is to so many – despite a big number believing that media hype is responsible for the day’s growing popularity.

“ANZAC Day means a lot to me and family having members who have fought in most theatres of war. We attend the dawn service and I march with other veterans on this day in remembrance of mates who did not return and those who have passed since and particularly those who still suffer from war-caused disabilities,” wrote ianfin.

Mick responded: “And that’s exactly what it should be, ianfin. A remembrance by all of us with the families of affected Australians at the top of this list. I’ve been watching ANZAC Day being hijacked by the media and business trying to cash in and the show created has drowned out what the day should signify to all of us – remembering the price of war and the [effect of loss on] families.”

So what was your verdict? Has ANZAC Day become overhyped? That was close to a split decision with 50 per cent saying no and 44 per cent yes. The remaining six per cent were unsure.

Has ANZAC Day become the most important/sacred day on the Australian calendar? A majority of poll respondents (36 per cent) backed this view with the response, ‘Yes, and I like it’. Another 20 per cent said, ‘Yes, and I don’t agree with it’, while 19 per cent said, ‘No, and I’m glad it isn’t’ and 13 per cent said, ‘No, but it should be’. Eleven per cent were unsure.

Forty-two per cent said they did not plan to go to a dawn service, or watch or join a parade, although another 19 per cent said they would like to. Thirty-five per cent were planning to attend an event, and four per cent were unsure.

What does ANZAC Day mean to you? The majority (30 per cent) said it was a sobering reminder of the sacrifices made by so many Australians; 26 per cent said it was a reminder of the tragedy of war; 22 per cent regarded it as a thank you to the millions who were and are in Australia’s defence forces, and 21 per cent said the day was one on which to be thankful for the freedom we enjoy.

Others described ANZAC Day as:

  • Not just a reminder of the tragedy of war but also the futility of it all. If only the money spent on armaments could go to ensuring peace.
  • How politicians make decisions to send our forces to war while they sit at home safe and sound and how our forces do us so proud and stand so tall even when the politicians have made very poor decisions.
  • Remembering relatives who died so young, leaving no children to remember them.
  • The stupidity and futility of war oft repeated.
  • A reminder of the terrible waste of life and resources. And a constant reminder of man’s inhumanity to man in war conditions, which should be a vital deterrent against ever going to war again.
  • The day, at Gallipoli, when Australia came of age. Considered as British even though Federation was 1901, the incompetence of the British generals at Gallipoli and in the trenches of the Western Front and with huge losses we became an internationally recognised nation in our own right.
  • The day I remember the pain and suffering my late husband and all war veterans suffered and are still suffering.
  • A chance to catch up with my defence mates and to remember the fallen and to look after the living.

Some poll respondents decried the focus on “the white Anglo Australian archetypal digger which is insulting to Aboriginal diggers, women and others who helped the war effort …”, while new Australians gave their thanks “to this beautiful country Australia”. “I’m passionate about Australia and the Australian way of life,” wrote Jennifer. “We are truly blessed to be living in this wonderful homeland.”

But the final word goes to ronloby: “I am ex-air force and I had an uncle killed on the Sandakan Death March in World War II and two great-uncles killed in France in World War I. These, along with thousands of other brave diggers, must never be forgotten! Lest we forget.”

Has war touched you or a loved one? Do you believe it is possible for a civilian to truly understand the effects of war?

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Written by Janelle Ward

8 Comments

Total Comments: 8
  1. 0
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    I wondered how far I would get through this article before I read that the British would be blamed Again for Gallipoli. Firstly I’m not a military man but my father was.. (D day), and I’ve attended the dawn service on many occasions in Melbourne. There are two notable people that have done research on Gallipoli, the late journalist Peter Harvey (senior) who suggested that the Diggers landed in the wrong spot. and Writer LA Carlyon a quote I have noted below. I know my comments will be contentious but as a British migrant for 55 years comments annually do get you down after a while.
    Story from the Telegraph…..

    In truth it is inaccurate and unfair to blame the British for the slaughter at the Nek. Instead, as Australian author L A Carlyon makes clear in his excellent account of the campaign, it was “mostly the work of two Australian incompetents” – Brigadier-General Hughes and Colonel Antill. “Hughes was the brigade commander and didn’t command; Antill wasn’t the brigade commander and he did. Responsibility rattled Hughes and, either consciously or unconsciously, he walked away from it. Antill behaved as he always did, like a bull strung up in barbed wire.”

    If, for Carlyon, the ordinary soldiers at Gallipoli were indeed lions led by donkeys, not all the donkeys were British. General Bridges, commander of the 1st Australian Division, was a mediocre officer who died after needlessly exposing himself to shellfire. Brigadier-General Johnston, a New Zealander, was to blame for delaying an attack on a thinly held Turkish position during the August offensive; when it finally took place the position had been reinforced and the Kiwis were slaughtered. Even Colonel Monash, who rose to become Australia’s greatest soldier, was “better at planning battles than carrying them out”.

    That is not to say that many British generals come well out of the campaign: Ian Hamilton, Aylmer Hunter-Weston, Alexander Godley and Frederick Stopford all made errors and missed opportunities. But they were all struggling – as were generals in all armies – with the unexpected reality of industrial warfare. The best of the bunch was probably William Birdwood, the unassuming English-born Anzac commander, who used to do his rounds of the trenches with no badge of rank. He was universally popular with his men and only narrowly missed out on becoming Governor-General of Australia in the 1930s because the prime minister, James Scullin, wanted a native appointed.

    • 0
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      Hmmm – but operating procedure often requires that the battalion or brigade commander step aside for the actual battle and the adjutant handles it. This was the case at KapYong, and is cause of a lot of unwarranted criticism over the handling of that battle.

      KapYong Day today – Old Faithful…

      Perhaps Hughes did the planning and organisation and Antill controlled the battle on the ground.

      I doubt I would have accepted an order to send over the third wave….. the line was down or something… and no.. rumours that my batman cut it are incorrect…

  2. 0
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    More must be done for diggers and their families. My great grandparents lost a son at Along with cousins. We must never forget for the sale of our o forbears who lost loved ones in wars

  3. 0
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    More must be done for diggers and their families. My great grandparents lost a son at Along with cousins. We must never forget for the sale of our o forbears who lost loved ones in wars

  4. 0
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    Sorry Cookie, I also have to criticise the British, for not fullfilling their mission but getting too involved with power and money, – however that is another dicussion, – My father was a member of the 2nd 19th, they were the Australian regiment that marched down to Singapore from Northern Malaya, and asked for volunteers to wrap themselves in heavy clothing, (despite the high temperature and heat) and walk in front to draw the Snipers fire, – the which they did, and usualy died shortly thereafter, but many snipers died also.
    My father, being too young, arrived in Singapore a bit later, and then there was the debate between the second 19th, and the British generals who were in charge of Singapore’s defence, – based solely on attack from the sea. – Of course the Australian officers lost as they were “over-ranked” by the English Generals, and who, despite several very serious discussions from senior Australian officers, refused to move any of the big guns to where they could interdict the causeway, that the japanese would certainly cross, etc. – So Singapore fell, due to the colonial arrogance of the British, – and then led to the requirement that the Americans should have to save Australia, a burden we have never been able to lift, and totally unnecessary, as the Kokoda trail defence proves.
    My Dad? – bomb landing next to hime fron a direction should not have been possible, major hip, deaf, etc, recovered to Chenghi, sent to the Burma Railroad, – from which most did not return, – only the very strong willed, could tell many more tales therefrom, but I am certainly glad he did survive as i would not be me had he not. – Whatever, British arrogance lost them their empire, don’t listen to the Soldiers, only the Admirals, who knew even less, – unless all human beings can respect each other as a fellow human being, this sort of idiocy will continue, – temporarily in the favour of the super rich, but in the long term to the fall of us all.

  5. 0
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    Given the recent history of certain RSL members, one shudders at the thought of opening the coffers …. the VVAA and other Veteran support and assistance groups need a little too…

    Most also don’t want a ‘support centre’ – they want some real action to resolve their issues, and not just a cynical exercise in pushing through a pension claim.

    Active service returnees should be guaranteed a minimum income for life.

  6. 0
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    I don’t understand how DVA differentiates between Veterans, and they do. My late Dad served in the Royal Navy – not the Australian Royal Navy – and he saw active service. He served in The Mediterranean through to Iceland and he was wounded. He participated In the D-Day landing. Whilst he was given a DVA Pension, he was refused a Gold Card and given only an Orange one, which only gave him only pharmaceuticals. Yes, you may say, he served with the RN, so he is not entitled to anything more, in which case I would say, was he fighting in a different war. My Dad was Australian.
    My Mum is a stand out case of misogyny. In WWII, she served in the WAAF as a wirelesss operator on two major Bomber Command airfields which were regularly under bombing attacks from the German Air Force. She was refused a service pension because she did not see active service. So having to remain at your station whilst German bombs were falling around you did not constitute active service according to DVA.
    As his widow, my Mum inherited my Dad’s service pension, which was then whisked away from her 3 months later because of the change in the assets test. She isn’t rich but she is in care being in her 90s, and because the value of her house exceeded the assets test limit, she lost the pension. So we kept the house, rented it out and this is what pays for our Mum’s care.
    But more than anything, I am concerned at the way the idiotic bureaucrats with their DVA red tape cause more harm to our already traumatised returned service personnel. Dealing with the DVA is horrendous. They are inefficient. They are ignorant. People complain about dealing with Centrelink, but at least their lot know about entitlements, whereas DVA don’t. DVA needs a good clean out.

  7. 0
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    What about the men and women who served for 20 years + who are not considered veterans. My husband served in the RAA for over 20 years. He spent a lot of time away from his family sometimes for months at a time. He went to Malaysia where he patrolled with live ammunition but this is not recognised by the Australian Government. No he is not a veteran, and now in his 60’s he wonders why he bothered sacrificing his family life for the military. He doesn’t want money he doesn’t want gold cards etc he just wants some recognition for his service. He has medals but they are hidden away never to see the light of day, He probably feels embarrassed to wear them because they are insignificant as the government does not recognise these men and women as veterans. A lot of people might say well he didn’t go to a war zone. No he didn’t but he was prepared and ready to go if the need arose as were they all.


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