HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES – Thursday, 5 February 2009

CONDOLENCES

Private Gregory Sher

Report from Main Committee

Order of the day returned from Main Committee for further consideration; certified copy of the motion presented.

Ordered that the order of the day be considered immediately.

Mr SNOWDON
(Lingiari— Minister for Defence Science and Personnel) (10.01 am)

Mr Speaker, unfortunately I was unable to participate in the debate in the other chamber before the message was sent back to us, so, if you do not mind, I will just take a few moments to reflect again on the service of Private Greg Sher. Allow me the opportunity to pay my respects for his sad loss and to make some observations. Many fine words have been spoken about this wonderful man, who died honourably and courageously on behalf of his country. We know that Private Sher was 30 when he was tragically killed on the evening of 4 January this year in a rocket attack in Oruzgan province in Afghanistan. On 8 January, I had the honour of attending a ramp ceremony in the Middle East along with the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, and the then Commander of Joint Task Force 633, Major General Michael Hindmarsh, as Greg Sher was farewelled from the Middle East by Australian troops. Earlier, a ceremony had been held in Tarin Kowt, in the biting cold of the Afghanistan winter. Australian personnel and their coalition allies stood unwavering as they farewelled Private Sher. That was also the case at the ramp ceremony which I attended in the Middle East.

In a very simple yet very moving ceremony, troops from Australia, the United States and Japan formed a guard of honour for Private Sher as his casket was placed on the RAAF C17 to be carried home on his final journey. It was a simple but moving ceremony, and it showed the great respect that his comrades had for him. We have seen evidence of that respect in the contributions which have been made about him since that dreadful day on which he lost his life. You have heard about his family, the love and respect that he had from his parents, Yvonne and Felix, his two brothers, Barry and Steve, and his partner, Karen. But his broader family, the Defence family, also held him in great love and respect. And, with his death, we remember other fallen Australian soldiers, his Defence Force brothers.

The tributes following this sad occasion are truly a great testament to the deep respect in which he was held by those who knew him. Air Chief Marshal Houston has described him as an experienced professional and a great team member whose actions and service exemplified the spirit and values of the Australian Army. Private Sher was described by the Chief of Army as a dedicated, passionate and well-respected soldier, who made the ultimate sacrifice in serving our nation. Private Sher has also been described by the Special Operations Commander Australia, Major General Tim McOwan, as ‘brave, loyal and determined’.

In the week following Private Sher’s death and his burial ceremony here in Australia, I visited Afghanistan along with the Chief of the Defence Force and General Hindmarsh, and I had the privilege of witnessing firsthand the courage and commitment of the many deployed Australian Defence Force personnel. Furthermore, I had the great honour to meet with Private Sher’s unit and hear the personal accounts of Greg’s passion, enthusiasm and dedication to service and of the great loss that was felt by his comrades as a result of his death. It is clear that this young man, although paying the ultimate sacrifice, has left many, many fond memories and is held in the highest regard by all of those who knew him.

This visit to Afghanistan reinforced for me the great challenges that our personnel are facing, the dangers that they confront on a daily and hourly basis and the professionalism and dedication to service demonstrated by all those I had the opportunity to meet. As the Minister for Defence said in his contribution, we have an
absolute obligation to continue our support, to make sure that we assist as far as we possibly can with working towards a secure future for the people of Afghanistan so that those servicemen who have lost their lives serving this great nation of ours will not have done so in vain.

I would like to acknowledge the loyal support of the families of deployed Australian Defence Force personnel. When you have the opportunity to go and mix and meet with Defence Force families of those who are deployed, it is quite moving to get an understanding of the anxiousness and the concern that family members have for their partners, husbands, wives, sons and daughters who may be deployed in overseas operations on behalf of our country. Private Greg Sher will be sadly missed by those who loved him here in Australia and also by his mates, particularly those with whom he served.

The SPEAKER—The question is that the motion be agreed to. I ask all honourable members to signify their approval by rising in their places.

Question agreed to, honourable members standing in
their places.

House of Representatives – Hansard – Thursday 5 February 2009

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