I am proud to be an Australian Soldier

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My comments are in response to the news article Why I’m Ashamed To Be An Australian Soldier

First off let me state for the record that as an ex-serviceman myself I have never been ashamed to have been an Australian soldier nor will I ever be. Let us leave such expressions as ‘I am ashamed to be Australian’, to limp wristed writers, academics and left leaning commentators who have never experienced the exhilaration of military service, the thrill of representing the nation both at home and overseas or the experience of leadership in a military environment let alone in any field. Service overseas in areas of conflict, doing the nations bidding, peacekeeping duties across the world, humanitarian tasks wherever and whenever and simply serving in the military, are the core reasons why defence personnel “sign” up.

 The problem we have at present is that we have government representatives and a bureaucracy that simply does not understand what service in ADF is all about. They do not understand the unique nature of military service and are intent on equating everything that service personnel do to that of a civilian, particularly a public servant who rarely if ever get out of their office and never experiences being away from home either on exercise for up to six months of the year or being on active service on constant rotation. We have a government that is afraid to acknowledge the uniqueness of what service personnel do for fear of opening the flood gates of the public service unions that seemingly work on the basis of wanting more but remain intent on doing less and going home each night safe and sound.

We have a situation where the points of difference between military service and its uniqueness and that of the public service are now seen to be minimal. Why is that? Simply put why has the situation got to this point?

We, and I say we deliberately, have not fought the fight. We have not organised for the long term but rather have relied on others to put their head above the parapet and failed to support them as they toiled for fairness for our service personnel. We have too readily said ‘what is the RSL doing about this?’, ‘why don’t the senior officer’s fall on their swords over this pay issue?’, or worse still, ‘woe is me no one loves us!’

The RSL gave up the fight for members of the ADF a long time ago. In the recent pay case it simply put in a one page submission to the determining authority which in essence said that as the decision has been made, we disagree with it but we accept it. That is not representation, that is not lobbying, that is not fighting for your constituency rather that is throwing in the towel.

 Senior officers have also in recent times been found wanting. They are not affected by the 1.5% pay increase decision as their pay is tied to that of the senior public servants so why should they be concerned. Their pay increases in quantum amounts and above the CPI so the hurt is never felt in the corridors of Russell Offices. One of the senior uniformed spokesman displayed his timidity on the issue by defending the decision on the grounds that ‘Australian service personnel are well paid in comparison to those overseas’ ignoring the obvious fact that they reside in the Australian economic environment and not in some unrelated foreign country. Even those at the senior levels of the ADF cannot articulate a cogent or persuasive argument in defence of the indefensible. They ignore the fact that these same affected ADF personnel continue to strive for excellence and put up with the exigencies of service such as the constant cycle of training, rotations, courses and two or three year postings simply to maintain the pride and the reputation that the ADF has across the world. It is that reputation that the government relies on in crises after crises to promote the nation on the world stage. That reputation has not been achieved by working nine to five in an air conditioned office.

 Politicians are also guilty as their income rises on a regular basis and in quantum amounts as do their allowances and incidentals so there is no hurt felt by them. Politicians, even those who have had recent service in the ADF have simply toed the party line, sat mute on the issues that affect us and in the case of some spokesmen displayed an arrogance that does them no credit.

 What is to be done? Advocacy or lobbying demands consistent and considered arguments over the long term. Getting in the face of the politicians and abusing them or their staff does no credit and does not advance the argument one iota. Rather it is damaging in the long term as likeminded people are all then grouped by this low common denominator.  Considered and well-constructed arguments then fall on deaf ears and subsequently ADF personnel take two steps backwards.

 I strongly encourage those people with concerns regarding ADF entitlements to join an ex-service organisation and contribute to it with ideas, ammunition and energy. Don’t simply join and leave others to do the heavy lifting – contribute. The Defence Force Welfare Association (DFWA), the Naval Association, the RAAF Association, The Royal Australian Regiment Association, the Australian Special Air Service Association, the Australian Peacekeepers & Peacemakers Veterans’ Association (APPVA) the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia (VVAA), the Australian Federation of Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Servicemen and Women and others have combined to form the Alliance of Defence Service Organisation (ADSO) join one of them and become active in the development of issues and considered discussions. If you think you can revitalise the RSL then join and become active. Whatever you do, do not leave others to do the heavy lifting rather do something positive and be constructive about your service in the ADF and never be ashamed to say “I am a proud member of the Australian Defence Forces!”   

 Take care,

 Kel Ryan

Rob Fittock 26.03.2017 (09:54:11)  
Fremantle City RSL Sub-Branch Yes No  

Having not served in the ADF when my marble was not drawn from the barrel during the conscription days of the Vietnam conflict I am an Affiliate member of the FreoRSL to honour my Parents service in the RAAF during WWII, my Grandmothers service in the Red Cross and Grandfathers service in the Army during WWI where he was shot in the thigh

I am currently the Vice President of the FreoRSL

The FreoRSL was founded in the early 1920s and rose to a membership of approx 650 members post WWII but declined in significant numbers with a membership of only 18 in 2015

Since that time with the influx of younger Vets and Affiliates joining its ranks the membership has slowly increased to 30 financial members

As a renewed and enthusiastic membership works at re-establishing itself to make the RSL more relevant to the younger ADF vets to provide facilities for the Defence families and Welfare and Advocacy services, it does not need the recent shameful and damaging debacle with the NSW RSL et al but you keep moving forward

I'll meet you sooner or later Kel but I'll keep you in the loop as the FreoRSL looks for a new home in Freo to deliver the RSL's core mission


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Maurie Simons 10.12.2014 (06:34:13)  
Yes No  

Wisely chosen words Kel. There has been a lot of work done by many at ADSO, and next to nothing by the RSL leadership who are quick to take any accolades. As for our senior officers in their rarefied atmosphere, well, don't get me started. Love her, or hate her, Jacqui Lambie has certainly gained some publicity in this area. Perhaps we need to take advantage, come up with a clever name for a political party and get ourselves our very own senator to grab any future government by the short and curlies.

  Edit comment    
Ted Chitham 10.11.2014 (21:40:31)  
I am proud to be an Australian soldier Yes No  

Well said Kel, you are a true patriot.
I hope your call to action strikes a positive cord with those who have served Australia in uniform.
The ADF pay deal is outrageous and thanks to ADSO''s publication of its survey of ADF members' response to it has raised the matter to the Australian peoples attention.
It seems that we have the answer to the question, Who will protect the nation's defenders? .... The Australian people

Richard Fulwood 12.11.2014 (18:25:16)  
Yes No  

Agree with Kel's sentiments. The RSL dealt itself out of the game years ago by their lack of support for Fair Indexation. The other problem is MSBS will not keep pace with the current inflation rate. The ADF members also lose out by not being able to transfer their MSBS to another fund.

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