As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan on 18 August, Vietnam Veterans Day, I am pleased to congratulate two students from western Victoria who have been selected to take part in the 2016 Vietnam history study tour. The students, Lauren McIlveen of Camperdown College and Georgia Perris of Horsham College, are among 10 Victorian students to receive this award. The western Victorian community is very proud of their achievement. They were selected after submitting a project that reflected the topic of ‘the controversial Vietnam War’ and the issues that promoted debate amongst the nation at that time.
Almost 60 000 Australian troops were involved in the Vietnam War between 1962 and 1973, and more than 500 lost their lives. The war bitterly divided the Australian community, which was split over military conscription and the way in which the war was fought — rich material indeed for Lauren and Georgia in researching their project. In later years we have understood much better how the Vietnam War has impacted on the lives of Vietnam veterans and the difficulties they faced as young service personnel in a most controversial war. We also understand that their service has resulted in ongoing health concerns for so many. Above all, we acknowledge their sacrifice.
The Andrews Labor government is helping Victorian schools send students to the Vietnam Veterans Day march and service at the Shrine of Remembrance by providing free public transport to students and subsidising schools for the costs of travel. The Vietnam War history tour is supported by the Victorian government and delivered by the Victorian branch of the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia. These are important initiatives, along with the work of students such as Lauren and Georgia, in informing young people of the contribution our Vietnam veterans made. I wish Georgia and Lauren well on their very exciting venture.