Anthony Albanese has paid tribute to the sacrifices made by those who fought in the Vietnam War on the 50th anniversary of Australia’s involvement in the conflict.

The Prime Minister spoke before a special commemorative service at Ipswich RSL on Friday and said the country owed a debt to every veteran who served.

“We need to always remember those men and women who serve Australia in uniform who deserve our respect each and every day,” he said.

“History moves quickly, and our veterans who served in their later years are now at least in their late 60s, and they deserve our thanks.

“Many of them, having gone through the hostility of war, came home and did not get the support that they needed, they did it tough. It’s something that we need to learn lessons from and it should never happen again.”

About 60,000 Australians served in Vietnam between 1962 and 1972. Five hundred and twenty-three lives were lost and some 3000 soldiers were wounded.

An estimated 15,000 Australians who served were conscripted under the National Service Scheme, which pulled young men’s birth dates from a “lottery of death”.

Soldiers were required to serve gruelling 12-month tours of duty, of which 80 per cent was spent in the operational field.

Vietnam Veterans’ Day commemorates The Battle of Long Tan, the single greatest loss of Australian life in the war.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, who attended a service in Western Australia on Friday morning, released a joint statement about acknowledging “our nation’s historical mistreatment of many who returned”.

“Our dutiful act of remembrance on Vietnam Veterans’ Day is a threefold promise. A promise to the past to honour the fallen. A promise to the present to thank those Vietnam veterans still with us. And a promise to the future to afford all veterans with the proper treatment and dignity they deserve,” it read.

“Indeed, we can better appreciate the values for which Australians shouldered arms, shed blood and sacrificed so much. Australians stood with our friends against those hellbent on conquest.”

An estimated more than 36,000 Vietnam veterans are still living, with most aged 70 or older.

Commemorative services are due to be held across the country on Friday, including at the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial in Canberra.

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