I rise to speak on the recent repatriation of the bodies of 33 Australian service personnel who were previously interred at the Terendak Military Cemetery in Malaysia and at the Kranji War Cemetery in Singapore. Under the arrangements in place at the time of their deaths, unless families were willing to pay £600 to have the remains repatriated, these service personnel were buried in the nearest commonwealth cemetery. As we stand here today, it is almost unfathomable that this could have been the reality, yet sadly it was.
These were young Australians who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country. These were families that lost their sons and brothers in a conflict that in many ways was beyond comprehension. It was brutal, it was messy and ultimately it was futile. To be then told that it was the financial responsibility of the family to bring the remains of their son home, which 33 families simply could not afford, was wrong — wrong in every sense of the word. Whilst the pain caused by this wrong can never be taken back, this has been an important process for the families who have suffered, and I acknowledge all those involved in making it possible.
We are now approaching Vietnam Veterans Day, chosen to commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, which this year occurred 50 years ago. The passing of time should not and will not diminish our memory of the horror of what took place for so many of these young Australians as well as the impact that their deaths had on their families and friends. Lest we forget.