Monday, 29 July 2019
Private Members' Business
Solomon Electorate: Cadets
I want to thank the member for Canning (1) for his service and (2) for giving honourable members the opportunity to note the valuable contribution of cadets. Australian Defence Force cadets, I think, have played and continue to play a marvellous role in developing young people with all those attributes you just heard of from the member of Canning. I wasn't a cadet myself but my advice is that, if you do want to a career in the Australian Defence Force, be a cadet. I noticed, when I joined the Army and went to the Australian Defence Force Academy, it was the young men and women, my colleagues, who had been cadets before who just blitzed everything. They knew how to strip down an SLR and they knew how to shoot and had an idea about navigation and all those things, so it was a great advantage to them. They often spoke about their experiences in cadets and there was no doubt it prepared them well for the challenges of service life, so I would encourage young people to look at cadets.
Being in a defence town, as I am, my electorate of Darwin and Palmerston has Army, Navy and Airforce cadets. ADF cadets provide the opportunity for a great deal of personal development in a sort of quasi-military environment that does extend the cadets beyond their self-imposed limits. It helps them develop an understanding of the balance between personal freedoms and choice and the responsibilities that they bring; promotes self-reliance, self-esteem and self-discipline; and develops and recognises a broad range of skills, including leadership and teamwork.
In my electorate of Solomon, young Territorians are lucky to have the option of participating in the Army, Navy or Air Force cadets, as I've mentioned. We have a Navy cadet unit at Berrima. The Australian Navy cadets have a training ship, which is like the base. The unit was fortunate to recently receive a brand new power boat from the Department of Defence, so they are very stoked about that. This will allow the cadets there to get their boating qualifications. In fact, prior to the delivery of that boat, the training ship, Darwin, hadn't conducted water activities for three years. The boat is going to be named Phoenix, after the symbolic bird, adopted by HMAS Darwin that was recently been decommissioned. The unit's second boat, which has been repaired, will also feature in the naming ceremony and will be named Arrow, after HMAS Arrow, which sunk at Stokes Hill Wharf during Cyclone Tracy, back in 1974.
We have two Air Force cadet squadrons, No. 801 Squadron in Winnellie and No. 802 Squadron in Driver in Palmerston, which both form part of 8 Wing squadron. Over the weekend at the Darwin Show, I donated two show tickets to the 801 Squadron Australian Air Force cadets, who recently completed their first semester with the cadet program. I hope cadet Beaton and cadet Schiller enjoyed their time at the Darwin Show—I certainly did; it was a great weekend.
Last but not least we have the two Army cadet units, the 70 ACU Larrakeyah, and the 71 Army Cadet Unit Palmerston. Both units recently conducted a joint recruit course and bivouac for 34 recruits at Robertson Barracks, where they were taught various skills about living in the bush, wearing their field gear, personal camouflage and team-building activities. It is a great credit to all of the staff. On any given day, army cadet units in my electorate can have 120 cadets, so it's a great credit to the parents, volunteers and personnel, who take their time to make the ADF cadet programs in Darwin so successful. Cadets are great, and I commend young people to get involved.
I'm delighted to join with the member for Canning and, indeed, the member for Solomon to praise the work of the ADF cadets right around this country. In numerous places throughout Australia, cadet units offer a wonderful opportunity for young people not only to learn more about the military—the defence forces—but to learn important skills which will stand them in good stead in many walks of life which they might follow up in the future. Having seen cadet units on numerous occasions and the enthusiasm of young people for these activities, I know they are something we can all commend and that we can indicate our support for the leaders of these units and for the ongoing work they do for young people in our community.
May I take the opportunity on this occasion to commend also the work of the Australian Air League's Doncaster squadron, in my electorate of Menzies. It has been led by Ian Walkeden for many years and is a very vibrant group of young people who are engaged in the Air League's activities. The squadron at Doncaster is entirely self-funded, and local volunteers give their time generously to achieve their goals. Along with the cadets more generally, the goals of the Australian Air League are:
These are very wholesome, fully rounded activities which are good for young people generally.
Members of the Australian Air League's Doncaster squadron attend parade nights once a week, when they take part in a variety of activities, including ceremonial drill, model-aircraft building and aviation theory classes. Together with active community participation, they undertake training in first aid, in lifesaving and in camp craft, which prepares these young people for a lifetime of service within our local community. It is great to see the air cadets participate in the regular citizenship awards in Manningham, in Menzies. They also participate in Anzac Day services and in other commemorative-day services, including Armistice Day, and they help to raise funds for many good causes, so much so that on a number of occasions in my annual Menzies Australia Day awards I have been able to acknowledge amongst other people some of the members of the Doncaster Australian Air League squadron. This year Calan McLeod and Kevin Huang, two young members of the Doncaster squadron, were acknowledged among 50 or so people on Australia Day. In the previous year, 2018, Tiffany Huang was acknowledged, and the year before that, in 2017, Kenneth Ting, Hanson Wong and the head of the Doncaster air league squadron, Ian Walkeden, were acknowledged.
One thing that members in the chamber and others listening may have noted is the ethnic background of those young people who have been acknowledged as part of the Air League. Calan McLeod, Kevin Huang, Tiffany Huang, Kenneth Ting and Hanson Wong are all of Asian background. It's just amazing to see in my electorate, a very multicultural electorate, young people from an Asian background amongst others being engaged in the activities of the air squadron. It brings people together in these activities, regardless of their background, of their ethnicity and of whatever other characteristics they may bring to their involvement. One of the things which I do regularly on Australia Day is award the Australian flag which is flown in the Australian House of Representatives chamber, which the Speaker generously makes available. On Australia Day I award that flag to one of the community groups in my electorate as an indication and a recognition of the service which they provide to the greater community in Menzies. In 2018, as well as giving an individual award to Tiffany Huang, I presented the very special Australian flag which had flown in the House of Representatives chamber to the Doncaster Air League as an indication and in appreciation of the activities which they undertake, of the contribution they make to the local community and as an encouragement to their ongoing work. Once again, I commend the member for Canning for bringing forward this motion to the House and commend the ongoing work of everybody involved in the ADF cadets.
I rise to support this motion, and I thank the member for Canning for this motion. The Australian Defence Force Cadets is arguably Australia's best youth personal development program. It's supported by the ADF, in cooperation with local communities across the country. The program benefits the nation by developing the capacity of Australian youth to contribute to society, while fostering, I think, an interest and a potential career for many of them in the Australian Defence Force. It's quite clear that they develop ongoing communitarian spirit from their time in the ADF Cadets.
As has been said, it compromises three cadet organisations, administered by the fairly newly established ADF Cadets headquarters—Navy, Army and Air Force—and they're responsible, of course, for these cadets in the headquarters across the country. There are currently—and the numbers go up, as with any organisation—about 24½ thousand cadets and 4½ thousand officers, instructors and approved helpers in more than 500 ADF cadet units across the country, including several in the electorate of Blair. As well as developing critical life skills, like leadership, teamwork, respect, unity and discipline, ADF Cadets programs engender a spirit of service, civics and Australian values in participants. I think it clearly improves the diversity of the ADF, and you can see that from the number of people from ethnic backgrounds in the cadets that I have seen across my electorate.
While the ADF Cadets program enjoys very strong bipartisan support, Labor has also been a very big believer in the program. When last in government, my colleague Dr Mike Kelly, the member for Eden-Monaro, commissioned a major review of the ADF Cadets scheme back in 2008. It led to a stronger focus on ADF Cadets and better funding, allowing new units to form. It also identified a number of challenges, as you would expect, and I'm sure the member for Eden-Monaro, when he is speaking, will have more to say about that review. I also want to thank the former Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, former senator David Feeney, who did much to champion cadets across the country and came to Ipswich to meet with local cadets when Labor was last in government.
As the shadow minister for Veterans' Affairs and Defence Personnel, with responsibility for cadets on our side of the chamber, I intend to build on Labor's strong record in this space. There have been a number of significant changes to the ADF Cadets program in recent years. Defence, for example, is trying to improve its safety and child protection regime in response to findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse around abuse within ADF cadet organisations. A number of initiatives have been rolled out to improve cadet programs and provide a better experience for participants. The Australian Army Cadets transformation program has contributed to improvements in governance, accountability and training, with new resources and electives like robotics being added, and a growth in volunteer numbers. Under the Australian Air Force Cadets aviation program, the RAAF is purchasing gliders and leasing aircraft to provide flight training, which has been exciting for young cadets involved.
I've had the privilege of engaging with a number of cadet units in and around the electorate of Blair. There's the Army cadet unit, for example, 127 ACU based near Queens Park in Ipswich Central. The Navy cadet unit, TS Ipswich, is based in Ipswich Central at the same location. There's an Army cadet unit in Springfield, and there are Air Force cadet units at RAAF Base Amberley, Australia's largest Air Force base. I'm pleased to have recently participated in the ADF Parliamentary Program at Amberley with the Joint Logistics Unit. The Air Force cadet unit there is called 225 Squadron. I see these cadets around the country and particularly in my electorate participating in country shows on Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and other days of important memory to this country, particularly at the RAAF base around Ipswich and the Somerset region, as well as being involved in honour guards and catafalque parties. There is a whole range of involvement they engage in.
Cadet units have told me they want to contribute and be involved in these types of programs. I think we can do more to assist ADF cadet units that are struggling for resources in this country. We made great strides in integrating cadet units into the broader ADF in recent years, and we should encourage the three services to take a greater interest in cadet programs. Like scouts and the Girls & Boys Brigade, this is an important youth program. It teaches discipline, commitment, respect and contribution. I thank the cadets for the contribution they make.
It's wonderful to be here to speak on this motion. I would like to begin by congratulating the member for Canning for moving it. I'd also like to congratulate the members that preceded me—the members for Solomon, Menzies and Blair—not only for their support for their local cadet corps, but also, more critically, for using this opportunity to give those cadets a voice and recognition today. That is certainly the basis that I bring to the spirit of this debate.
Sir John Monash once told an audience:
… you equip yourself for life not solely for your own benefit but for the benefit of the whole community.
That's the spirit that the cadets live by every day. It's important to reflect on this ethos, articulated by one of Australia's most distinguished military leaders—and, I'm privileged to say, a perpetual Goldstein citizen and resident, as he is deceased in Brighton cemetery. When discussing the value of cadetship with the Australian Defence Force, Sir John Monash's words come alive. Honour, honesty, courage, integrity, loyalty, teamwork and citizenship: together they comprise the enduring values of the Australian Air Force Cadets. They help underpin the rich social fabric of communities nationwide.
In the great Goldstein electorate, these values are embodied by the young men and women who participate in the 417 Squadron. Originally formed in 1956 as the 17 Flight Air Training Corps, the 417 Squadron is based on Royal Avenue in Sandringham, at the Labuan Barracks. There are regular participants there on Tuesday nights, doing drills, and sometimes running up and down the street—I see them as I drive home at night. Their motto—dare to fly higher—demonstrates the scale of growth opportunities that young cadets are afforded: to live out the values of the Australian Air Force Cadets, and to develop many of the skills that those speakers before me discussed such as leadership, strength, teamwork, integrity and resilience. Some of these include opportunities to develop qualities of leadership, self-reliance and initiative; the ability to foster an interest in aviation and the Royal Australian Air Force; the chance to develop a strong sense of self, and good citizenship; and the creation of an environment to learn about Australia's aviation history. Fundamentally, cadetship is about enabling young adults to individually reach their full potential, and to go on to make valuable contributions to their community and, as a consequence, to our great nation.
Cadetships help young people become, as Sir Robert Menzies would put it, people who have a sense of the community in them, rather than a sense of their own individual advantage. Those are the values and those are the aspirations that bring out the best not just in cadets, but in all of us. Menzies understood that great nations aren't built from capitals, in our case Canberra; they're built from the strength of communities, families and individuals in pursuit of the strength of the bonds that unite us in common cause. This is particularly best reflected in those who do it in pursuit of our national defence. And, yes, the member for Canning correctly outlined that it's also in pursuit of love of country, and we recognise the extent to which the cadets work towards encouraging participation through that pursuit of common citizenship.
So thank you to the 417 Squadron cadet leaders and staff who give up their time to mentor and shape Australia's youth, and their future. If you would like to join the Australian Air Force Cadets in Goldstein, you can always visit the 417 Squadron on Royal Avenue in Sandringham on Mondays between 6.30 and 9.30 pm, or you can call them on 03 9521 8698. I'm sure they will welcome your participation, and, Mr Deputy Speaker Zimmerman, maybe even you could come along and participate as well.
I thank the member for Canning for his motion today to place on record the valuable contribution that the Australian Defence Force Cadets make to youth development in our communities and, of course, the contribution of those cadets who go on to serve in our Defence Forces—as the members for Canning and Eden-Monaro, who are speaking on this debate today, did. ADF cadets provide an important pillar of support to many communities across Australia. Not only do they offer a means for young Australians to get involved in the Defence Force and give back to local communities; they also teach our young people invaluable lessons of self-reliance, discipline, leadership and teamwork. This not only improves the lives of young Australians by developing their capacity to contribute to society but ultimately benefits the nation as a whole.
The cadets have a proud history stretching back to 1866, when Australian schools began offering cadet programs for their students. Since then, the cadets have grown from strength to strength, transforming from the youth wing of the defence forces to a program of social and personal development for young men and women who wish to push themselves to become better citizens and acquire important life skills. They pass on the ethos and values that the ADF espouses to its servicemen and servicewomen—loyalty, integrity, professionalism, courage, innovation and teamwork. The three organisations of ADF cadets—Army, Navy and Air Force—have 25,000 enrolled cadets across 520 ADF locations in Australia. Cadets offer young Australians the ability to build their personal skills to give themselves the best shot at life and to help out the community in different ways.
I've had the pleasure to see firsthand how the cadets help out at local community events in my electorate and across the south-west of Brisbane. You can see the cadets proudly raising and lowering the flags on Anzac Day ceremonies, marching in parades and providing volunteering services at many, many local events. They help out at these occasions, sometimes for hours, standing in the hot sun to make sure that we as a nation can reflect on the sacrifices and commemorate the service of our defence forces in the past. Without the assistance of these young men and women, these ceremonies would not run as smoothly and, in some cases, would not be possible at all.
I'm lucky to have a number of groups in my electorate who contribute to these events, including the Springfield-Flinders View Air Force Cadets and the Forest Lake Squadron of the Australian Air League. I've attended many events these groups have held, including various parades celebrating women in aviation and acknowledging the sacrifices of our servicemen and servicewomen. I see how these cadets display the values of the ADF and the cadet program. Most recently, I was proud to support the Forest Lake air squadron through the stronger communities grants to establish an aviation drone flight training facility for their students. While drone technology is expanding, it is still somewhat cost prohibitive for families, especially with drones that require a higher level of training. The project has allowed the Forest Lake Squadron of the Australian Air League to provide drone experience and training to their cadets, all of whom come from our local community. This project can provide the opportunity for the cadets to learn the practical skills necessary to effectively employ this technology, and also provides them with additional skills to contribute to our national STEM capabilities.
The Forest Lake air squadron are passionate about celebrating women in aviation and do so every year on International Women's Day. Today in the Royal Australian Air Force there are almost 3,000 women serving our country in many different and varied roles. I'm sure that with the support of groups like the Forest Lake air squadron there will be many more to come.
It's important to recognise the cadet leaders and staff, who give up their personal time to run these groups and squadrons and mentor and shape the future generations of Australians. They are another perfect example of Australians working tirelessly to make sure the Australia we leave to our children is better than what we received.
I look forward to other events that these group also organise and will continue to offer my support to make sure that they continue to assist our community and represent the ADF in our community. Any Australian who has seen the service cadets provide the help they give in the community knows the value of this organisation. I'd like to thank all those who've been through the programs and all those who are currently enrolled. Your service to the community is extremely valuable, and I know that the community in my electorate and across the whole south-west of Brisbane is very grateful for all you do. I know the parliament will concur when I say that the work the cadets do is vital, and we will always offer our full support to the ADF to continue this program for the benefit of the youth today and the Australia of tomorrow.
I'd like to thank my friend the member for Canning for his motion, which gives me the opportunity to speak about the cadet units in my area as well as highlight the success of one of my constituents. Cadets do a range of activities, from drill training for discipline and team work to field craft, including knots, camouflage and survival radio communications; navigation; firearms training, including proper cleaning, handling and firing of machine guns; first aid; physical training; and overnight bivouacs to test and refine field craft skills and use specialist equipment such as personal radios, night vision goggles and first aid equipment. We see them most on ceremonial occasions for dawn services, marches and remembrance events.
I want to acknowledge the work of two local cadet units in my area that provide such great service on those ceremonial occasions across all the different locations in my electorate, including at Hornsby, Brooklyn, Berowra, Galston, Glenorie, Kenthurst and at the Anzac Jawan Cenotaph. I want to acknowledge 226 Army Cadet Unit based at Normanhurst Boys High School, now led by Captain Geoffrey King, formerly led by Captain Stan Hinsby. I also want to acknowledge the Barker College Cadet Unit, whose commanding officer is Captain Justin Langely. These cadet units bring something special to the remembrance commemorations in my area. I want to thank them for their service and acknowledge the support they give all of our local RSL sub-branches—in particular, the Hornsby sub-branch, with local hero Terry James as its president.
Recently I was told the success of one of my constituents, Francine Jepsen, in the Australian Air Force Cadets. I think her success and her feelings about cadets illustrates the benefits of cadets which other speakers have outlined today. Francine lives in Cherrybrook. She attended Cherrybrook Technology High School, is currently studying security studies at Macquarie University and hopes to serve in the RAAF. Francine is a member of 322 (City of Ryde) Squadron, which is based in Dundas and is part of 3 Wing. She joined the Air Force Cadets three years ago.
The Australian Air Force Cadets were founded as the Air Training Corps in 1941. Since then, thousands of young men and women have played a part in the organisation, exemplifying its core focus on youth development. 3 Wing is one of nine wings in the AAFC and comprises over 2,200 cadets and 300 volunteer staff, all of whom are spread throughout New South Wales and the ACT. 322 Squadron was formed in 1951, and the unit has over 150 cadets and is the largest unit in the country. 322 Squadron has a comprehensive training program which offers a variety of activities, such as bivouacs, air experience days, ceremonial parades, firearms safety training and social events through the years.
A few weeks ago, Francine was selected to attend the cadet warrant officer promotion course at RAAF Base Wagga, amongst a detachment of 164 cadets and 31 staff members from across 3 Wing. The course went for two weeks, with long days from 6 am to 10 pm, containing intensive lessons on both practical and theoretical leadership, instructional technique, field craft, service knowledge skill and ceremony. Francine topped the course and was awarded the Gilbertson Award for the Dux of the Course and the Derek Wynn Leadership Award, and was promoted to cadet warrant officer. This is the third promotion she's attained. She was parade commander for the final march out parade. She told me:
It was nothing short of emotional to graduate alongside my peers in front of our supportive friends and families, having come so far together in such a short period of time.
Francine was called to serve in AAFC while watching the Anzac Day march in 2015. She said:
I remember seeing veterans, ADF members and all services of cadets marching together, and feeling pride and respect for each individual which passed my line of sight. I told my mum that one day I'd like to be marching there too.
Francine credits the mentoring of great staff at both squadron and wing level for her enjoyment of cadets and for the leadership skills they've taught her—in particular, commanding officer Squadron Leader Merridy Thompson and Warrant Officer Chris Gibson, who supported her and taught her 'the true meaning of accountability and respect for followership'. As she writes:
I have been lucky enough to be mentored by staff members at both squadron and wing level, who volunteer their time to enhance cadet careers and create life-changing experiences.
Today Francine herself enjoys marching in the Anzac Day parades, where she feels 'an even deeper sense of pride from within the organisation and for the Australian Defence Force'. Last year, when Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Sussex visited Australia, Francine's squadron was chosen to meet them. None of this has diminished the humility that Francine brings to her leadership. She's acknowledged the tenacity and endurance of her friendship with the 20 other cadets who graduated with her. Francine intends to leave her mark on the AAFC as her career comes to an end at the conclusion of the year and looks forward to giving back in positions of staff. In her words, cadets has allowed her to grow and develop in a safe environment, presenting her with opportunities she couldn't have found elsewhere. I want to thank Francine and all the cadets for their service.
I commend the member for Canning on raising this motion in tribute to the 26,000-odd cadets in Australia. It is a subject close to my heart. When we were in government I had responsibility for the cadets in my role as Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support. Unfortunately, we had some tragic circumstances during that time with the death of a young cadet, Nathan Francis, and the circumstances around that and what was revealed did highlight a number of issues and deficiencies around administrative aspects through Comcare inquiries and whatnot. It was an opportunity to go back and do bit of a root-and-branch assessment of what we wanted out of the cadets and what the cadets should be. I was very proud to have been able to institute in August 2008 an overarching inquiry into the cadets, headed up by an outstanding former officer of the Australian army, Lieutenant General Frank Hickling, who I had been fortunate enough to work with while I was in the Army.
He did a tremendous job in doing that review. They took over 200 submissions from community organisations and produced that report on 24 November 2008. It was a very useful submission indeed. One of the things we were looking at, of course, was not only these technical issues around command and control, legal liability and accountability but also what should have been the overall purpose of this organisation. Is it just a vehicle for training people to move into the ADF or is it a personal development mechanism? I think the answer to that in the examination that took place highlighted that we should be focusing on the development of these kids in particular and that it's a wonderful opportunity to do that. We had about 27 different reviews and studies of cadets in the lead-up to this review by General Hickling, and they had all gathered dust on the shelves. Nothing had ever been done about them. So I was pleased to say that we collaborated with the coalition in 2011 to produce an amendment to the defence legislation to address some of those issues and to follow through on what General Hickling had done.
In particular, there was an anomaly in the way that cadets were being managed in that the CDF actually had no ultimate command responsibility for the cadets. It was obviously a legacy thing that hadn't been picked up in the overall reform of the joint organisation of the ADF that had taken place in other areas. That was all about accountability and command and control, and an amendment that was produced in 2011 addressed that. Apart from making sure that that would happen from a practical point of view, we then moved forward to connect the cadets with the reserve command structure as well. That was quite appropriate because, as you'll find, nationally a lot of these cadet units are attached to or associated with reserve units, which helps to embed them within the community, often supported by RSLs and the like. So there is a wonderful synergy there in relation to their involvement with the community, and the support, as members have flagged, that they provide to commemorative events and the like is important. It's important for them to learn our history and our values and what those before them have stood up to defend.
So that serves that purpose, but more to my thinking is the positive benefit we get out of teaching these kids that, yes, the nation should provide you with certain things, but you all owe something back to the nation. This is a way of encouraging that mindset. I think we still greatly need that and ways of revisiting that concept today. It also teaches them the concepts of leadership and teamwork, which are so important across several aspects of life—all aspects of life, in reality. It was also a wonderful mechanism for introducing kids to the concept of an ADF career. We have certainly had an amazing success rate of translating cadets into defence careers. In 2011, about 57 per cent of officers in the Air Force had come through the air cadets. That's an important contribution that it has also made. I would hope we can work on that model. The Young Endeavour program is another example of these sorts of activities.
But I really do think we need a broader scheme. When we look at the issues we're having around the nation on disengagement of youth, apathy, youth suicide and these issues, we need to look at these kinds of frameworks and make them more ubiquitous and more national. We need to give our kids the opportunity to self-discipline themselves, make the most of themselves, look outside themselves and see how they can contribute to the broader society. I salute the cadet movement and those who have children in their care and as mentors doing a great job.