House debates

Monday, 2 December 2019

Constituency Statements

Burge, Mr Dennis

10:30 am

Photo of Tony ZappiaTony Zappia (Makin, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

On Sunday 17 November, members of the South Australian branch of the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia, Northern Suburbs Sub Branch, held a committal service at their clubrooms at the Peter Badcoe VC Complex, Edinburgh, to farewell their mate Dennis Burge, who passed away on 21 October. Sapper Dennis Burge enlisted in the Army, joining 1 Field Squadron, and served in Vietnam in 1967, mainly as a tunnel rat. He returned home in April 1968 after being injured in a mine incident. He recovered from his injury and returned to civilian life as a truck driver. At no time, however, did Dennis forget his Vietnam mates, the horrors of the war they had experienced and the residual effects it had on their lives.

The Vietnam War had its own uniqueness that only those people who served in Vietnam would understand. Many of them were deeply scarred by the war. They needed support, and that often came from others who served in Vietnam and who understood what service personnel had been through. Dennis was such a person even though, I'm sure, he had his own issues to deal with. He was instrumental in securing the clubrooms for the Northern Suburbs Sub Branch of the Vietnam Veterans Association. He served as president for several years, became an advocate for veterans dealing with the Department of Veterans' Affairs and regularly visited schools, talking to schoolchildren about Vietnam so they too could better understand how the war affected those who had served there. Even in his later years, when his own health was deteriorating, Dennis was at every veterans' event, proud of his service and that of his mates. Always level-headed, respectful and with immense humility, Dennis was very much respected by all.

The Vietnam War ended nearly half a century ago, but the mateship of those who served there has endured. I see it frequently at commemorative services and so many other community events that veterans are associated with. Not surprisingly, the committal service was very well attended, as veterans came to farewell their longstanding friend. In a final gesture of his loyalty, Dennis's ashes were interred in the memorial courtyard at the Vietnam Veterans Association Northern Sub Branch clubrooms. Some would say it was part of his long-term strategy to ensure that those clubrooms remained there well into the future, and I wouldn't be surprised if that were the case, because Dennis always looked ahead. To his wife, Kat, to his children and to all of his veteran colleagues, I extend my condolences on the passing of Dennis Burge. I know that he will be missed but fondly remembered by all.