Mr ENTSCH (Leichhardt-Chief Opposition Whip) (21:28): In the early hours of 21 June 2010 a US Black Hawk helicopter was flying low and fast to avoid enemy detection in the forbidding mountains of Kandahar Province in Afghanistan. In the pitch-black surroundings there was no room for error, and when the helicopter crashed it took the lives of three Australian commandos and a member of the American flight crew. Commandos Ben Chuck, Tim Aplin and Scott Palmer had returned safely many times from these highly dangerous sorties but unfortunately not this time. Their deaths devastated so many people: family members, friends, colleagues and fellow Australians.
On 1 July 2010 more than 1,000 people journeyed from all corners of Australia to the shores of Lake Tinaroo in Far North Queensland to pay their last respects to Private Benjamin Chuck. They came not only to honour their courageous service man but also to salute the memory of those who continue to stand side-by-side in the defence of freedom and basic human rights. On that day, an idea was born. It was a bold concept; a national memorial to honour the men and women who served, and to commemorate all Australian soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the fight against terror in Afghanistan.
Tonight I am very pleased to report that on Saturday, 22 June, the Avenue of Honour at Lake Tinaroo will be officially opened. Stretching for 300 metres, the avenue is flanked by two rows of Illawarra flame trees. Each Remembrance Day their spectacular red blooms will represent the circle of life. A sculptured memorial depicts the contribution made by the Australian Army, the Special Forces Commando Regiment and the SASR, Navy personnel, the Royal Australian Air Force and the unsung explosives detection dogs. One hundred and thirty kilograms of rocks, flown in from Afghanistan, form the base of sculpture and the honour board lists the names of the 39 fallen.
This Saturday several thousand people will congregate for the official opening by General David Hurley, the Chief of the Defence Force. Those on both sides of politics will attend, along with representatives from Lavarack Barracks-I see my colleague the member for Herbert, whose electorate includes the barracks, is here-and the Second Commando Regiment. It is going to be an incredible event. I want to acknowledge that, to get it to this point, the commitment and efforts of numerous individuals and organisations have been crucial. They include, but are not limited to: Ben’s parents, Susan and Gordon Chuck, who have been inspiring in their strength and vision throughout this whole project, and the Yungaburra Business Association and Avenue of Honour Committee, who have been instrumental in driving the community and business support.
Another individual I would like to mention is Howie Thomas for his tireless efforts in coordinating various elements of the project, including the campaign website and design. I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome Howie’s daughter, Tahali, here tonight. Tahali is the only girl this year from Far North Queensland to get into the Australian Defence Force Academy and it is nice to see her here. I also acknowledge the Tablelands Regional Council for designating the land, providing funding and offering in-kind help with site preparation; the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Queensland state government for major funding contributions; regional and national RSLs for their fantastic donations; the Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley, and Air Vice Marshal (Retired) Angus Houston, former Chief of the Defence Force, both of whom have shown strong support; and many others who have donated money, expertise, material and time for the project.
However, the job is not quite finished. In order for the memorial to be properly maintained in years to come we need to have momentum to keep going with a legacy fund. I was honoured to kick-start this final appeal with a personal donation of $5,000 and tonight I am strongly urging all those in this place to play their part as well. I have been provided with 150 limited edition Avenue of Honour commemorative pins and I would like to offer one to each member and senator who contributes $100 or more to this wonderful initiative. It will be on a first-in first-served basis. If we can raise $15,000 for the legacy fund that will be something to be proud of. These pins are available in my office.
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