Reflecting on Anzac Day 2021
"What a difference a year makes. This time last year we commemorated a pared back, socially distanced observance of ANZAC Day.
On top of all the other adaptions we were having to make to accommodate COVID-19, not being able to pay our respects as a community was seen by some as a further erosion of community life.
But we adapted and it was quite moving to see families at the end of driveways with flickering candles, honouring our servicemen and women.
Today we are still adapting to the reality of living in a world battling a global pandemic.
A century ago, at the tail end of World War 1, Australia faced a similar health emergency when the so-named Spanish flu reached our nation.
This pandemic ended up killing 13,000 Australians and more than 20 million people worldwide.
This was on top of the grim war statistics where over 60,000 Australians were killed, 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner and nearly 88,000 would suffer from war-related diseases or conditions.
No community was left untouched by WW1 or the Spanish Flu.
No community has been left unaffected by any subsequent conflict involving Australian forces and no community has been left untouched by COVID-19, even if Australia has much to be grateful for in comparison to the experiences of other nations.
This ANZAC Day we took part in a range of commemorations with the hope that vaccines will allow Australia to find a new normal in a world battling a global disease.
Hope for a better life is the gift our servicemen and women have given us.
While ANZAC Day has rightly focused on the centenary of WWI in recent years, I think the time has come to stop and remember all areas of conflict where Australian servicemen and women have played their part.
It is right and proper to acknowledge those who have died in the service of their country, but we must also do all we can for living veterans to honour their contribution, which is why I welcome the Government’s decision to hold a Royal Commission into Veteran Suicide.
Forty-two Australian service members have died in Australia's modern military conflicts, which is 42 too many. But, as of 2017, some 419 current and former ADF members have died by suicide. This does not count the lives unnecessarily lost since 2017.
What currently eludes us is a clearer understanding of the underlying causes of suicide amongst the defence community and, importantly, a solution.
Australians have enormous faith in the ability of Royal Commissions to be independent, to be thorough and to lead to recommendations for real change.
I welcome the Government’s decision to take this course."
Rebekha Sharkie MP
Federal Member for Mayo
Photo: Rebekha at the Littlehampton Dawn Service with Glenn Liebelt and Mount Barker Councillor Simon Westwood.