Anthony Albanese has acknowledged the pain the country’s Vietnam vets experienced on the 50th anniversary of the end of Australia’s involvement in the controversial war.
A special service will be held at the Vietnam Forces Memorial in Canberra for Vietnam Veterans Day to honour the 60,000 personnel who served in the conflict for more than a decade.
A total of 523 Australian soldiers died and approximately 3000 were wounded during the war which took place from 1962 until 1972, the longest twentieth 20th century conflict in which Australia participated.
It was also one of the most controversial conflicts Australia has participated in, with the public becoming increasingly opposed to conscription as the war went on.
In the early 1970s, more than 200,000 people marched in the streets of Australia‘s major cities in protest of the war.
Veterans returning home, many of whom were battling post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues, were often at the receiving end of the backlash.
Mr Albanese made special note of the “service and sacrifice made by our veterans” in the Vietnam War.
“Their experiences during and after the war are a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made by those who have served our country and the debt of gratitude we owe each and every one of our veterans,” he said.
“Many of our troops returned to face new battles at home and not every one of those battles was won – it is important as Australians we know the stories of service in Vietnam and what our veterans faced when returned home.
“We honour you, we thank you and we are so sorry it took us so long as a nation to do so.”
The men who served in the Vietnam War “made the nation proud”, Veterans Affairs Minister Matt Keough said.
“When we speak of the Anzac spirit, we speak of having your mates backs, no matter how dire the circumstances,” Mr Keough said.
“But when our veterans returned home from Vietnam many felt unsupported, unrecognised.
“In marking 50 years since the end of Australia’s involvement in Vietnam, we honour and thank all those who served, and the sacrifices of their families.”
Vietnam Veterans Day also commemorates the Battle of Long Tan, which saw the single greatest loss of Australian life in the conflict in 1966.
Anzac troops were outnumbered 10 to one during the battle, in which 18 Australians were killed and 24 wounded.
If you or anyone you know needs help:
Aussie veterans in mental health wards preyed on for money
ADF bosses in the firing line over mental health
Lifeline: 13 11 14, lifeline.org.au
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 635, beyondblue.org.au
Open Arms Veterans and Families Counselling: 1800 011 046, openarms.gov.au