Thursday, 13 August 2009
Defence: 1st Brigade; Corporal Mathew Hopkins
I rise today to talk about the great honour I felt as the federal member for Solomon when I attended the parade on 8 August in Darwin to welcome home the 1st Brigade. I was speaking to Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston the other night at dinner about how proud I was as the local member to have these troops coming home. I was joined on the day by the Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science, the Hon. Greg Combet. I was also joined by Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie, Chief of Army, and Brigadier Michael Krause, Commander, 1st Brigade. I know how proud the Brigadier is of his 1st Brigade troops. There were 1,200 troops who arrived home, and the responsibilities that they had in Afghanistan, Iraq and Timor included work in the Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force, the Special Operations Task Group, Force Communications Unit 1, the Australian Security Detachment and the Timor-Leste Battle Group. All these people have contributed in a fine way to the efforts in these three areas of concern to our country and in our support to the coalition forces in these areas.
There was a big crowd on hand. A lot of local people turned out to thank the troops for their efforts. One person who was not there, and who I would like to pay special tribute to this morning, was Corporal Hopkins. Corporal Mathew Hopkins was killed during contact between the Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force and Afghanistan’s national army personnel and Taliban insurgents approximately 12 kilometres north of Tarin Kowt, in Oruzgan province, Afghanistan. That was on Monday, 16 March 2009. To mark the loss of Corporal Hopkins, a riderless horse was part of the parade, in the spirit of an ancient tradition. Saxon people used to bury a great warrior’s horse with him so that he could serve him in the afterlife. This practice was continued in some European countries until the late 18th century. In modern times, custom has been kinder to the horse and it has been led along as part of the funeral procession, with the soldier’s boots reversed as a sign of respect.
Corporal Hopkins was 21 years of age and was married with a young son. He is survived by his wife, Victoria, and son, Alexander—who were both there on the day—and by his mother, Bronwyn; father, Ricky; and brother, Corey. It was a tribute to him. Unfortunately, he was not there but he was the hero of this parade. It drove home to all of us the dangerous work that our troops are doing overseas. The 1st Brigade are an institution, a courageous institution, in my electorate. They are skilful and they always see the bigger picture.