House debates

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Questions without Notice

Invictus Games

3:08 pm

Photo of John McVeighJohn McVeigh (Groom, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. Will the minister update the House on plans for the upcoming Invictus Games and the importance of supporting our wounded, injured or ill service men and women?

3:09 pm

Photo of Darren ChesterDarren Chester (Gippsland, National Party, Minister for Veterans' Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Groom for his question and for his interest in this very important issue. I also thank him for hosting a recent visit I made to Toowoomba to meet with veterans and war widows in his community. In just a few days time the Invictus Games will be held in Sydney, where there will be some 500 athletes from 18 nations across the world gathering in what will be a great celebration of sport but, perhaps more importantly, a great celebration of service to one's country. We will be represented, obviously, by a very strong Australian team.

The Australian Defence Force, by any estimation, is a world-class Defence Force, but these are not supermen or superwomen. Sometimes they get injured. Sometimes they bleed. Bones are broken. And sometimes their minds need time to heal or the benefit of specialist assistance by mental health professionals. On behalf of a grateful nation, we have an obligation here in this place to make sure we do put our veterans first, that we do put our veterans' families first and support them at these times.

There is no question that the Invictus Games and sport more generally can be a great and incredibly powerful part of the recovery journey. In this respect, we will use sport over the next 10 days to help the Australian Defence Force personnel, those wounded, ill and injured service men and women, supporting them in their rehabilitation and perhaps also generating greater understanding throughout our community and throughout the world about the role of our service men and women and also how we can work with them to make sure that, when they transition out of the Defence Force, they can go on to lead very productive lives.

When I was in Toowoomba, I had the pleasure of meeting Stephen Osborne and his wife Wendy-Leigh. I want to thank again the member for Groom for facilitating that meeting. He is quite an inspiration—the member for Groom is an inspiration, but so is Stephen. Stephen was medically discharged from the Army and took up archery as part of his way of rehabilitation as a way of improving his focus and improving his balance and coordination. It has worked miracles for both Stephen and his wife, Wendy-Leigh. He put himself forward to the games as something of a personal challenge, and his journey has been quite extraordinary. It's taken him out of his comfort zone. It's given him the chance to meet with other veterans who share some of his hardships and has allowed him to recover in ways he didn't think was possible.

Throughout last week I also had the chance to meet with other members in Queensland along with RSLs. We bumped into quite a few Invictus athletes who were getting ready to come down to Sydney. To say they were excited is an understatement. To say they have the support of their communities is an understatement. We in this place simply need to support and unite them as they go through their journey in the next 10 days. There will also be opportunities in the Invictus Games for me to meet with international guests who host forums where we'll be exchanging ideas on how we can do more to support our veterans and their families in the community.

Seventy-two great Australian athletes represented Australia once before in uniform in the Navy, the Army or the Air Force, and in the next 10 days they'll represent us on the sporting field, and we wish them well.

3:12 pm

Photo of Bill ShortenBill Shorten (Maribyrnong, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

on indulgence—I rise to support the words of the Minister for Veterans' Affairs and, indeed, to support our Invictus athletes wholeheartedly. In this very brief indulgence I would like to suggest to the parliament that we do more in this moment than just speak words, as important as they are. Previously, the Australian Sports Medal was awarded to people who contributed to the nation's sporting success. For example, 18,000 people received an Australian Sports Medal for their work on the Sydney Olympics. But the medal has since been discontinued. I offer Labor's support to reviving the Australian Sports Medal. It's within the power of the government of the day to write to the Governor-General and revive it. Given the wonderful spotlight that Invictus puts upon veterans, disability and the nation's sport, I think this would be a modest recognition for the actual team, the leadership team and the administrators.

In closing, we wish the team co-captains, Matty Brumby and Nicole Bradley, and all of their fellow athletes all the very best.

3:13 pm

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

on indulgence—The government would be very pleased to accept the proposal put forward by the Leader of the Opposition. The Invictus Games will inspire us all. They will inspire us all, and I particularly want to commend again the work of Prince Harry in bringing this remarkable institution, this remarkable event that shines a light on the absolute courage of service men and women all around the world. We will stand, we will watch and we will be overwhelmed, but most of all we'll be inspired. For all of those who will be participating, we wish you all the best. In the spirit of bipartisanship in this place on such an important matter, we would be very happy to take on the recommendation of the Leader of the Opposition.

On that note, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.