Kylea shares her week

Week 8: What does it mean to be Australian?

Many of the men and women across multiple generations of my family have served in the armed forces or been impacted by war.

My great grandfather took several years to return from France following the end of WWI. When he finally did, the only way he could explain it to his family was that he had to stay on to help rebuild the community. It was the only way he could make any sense of his experiences.

In World War II, more members of my family fought: they were Rats of Tobruk, members of the Light Horse Brigade, spotters for the Infantry in the Pacific, and stood in Darwin when that city came under attack. Many of them were the ones I came to know as great uncles, my grandfather or the elder friends of the family, and while they would regale me with stories of many things, they would fall silent when it came to speaking of the war.

Then came the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the War in Afghanistan and on and on it goes. In each generation, young men and women have answered the call to fight for what we believe in and many of them have paid the ultimate price.

I had the opportunity to attend a Remembrance Day service at the War and Peace Memorial Church in Northbridge this week, where I found myself wondering, yet again: What does it mean to be Australian? What is it that drives some to stand up and fight to protect something greater than themselves? What should I take out of that commitment as personal motivation and how can I ensure I am honouring those who have sacrificed so much?

The following three things seem to me to be true:

Firstly, we should be incredibly grateful to those who serve our nation. They do not do it for glory but rather for each one of us here today and those yet to come. Thank you to every one of them.

Secondly though, we need to do better – much better – in supporting those who do return from conflict and ensuring the systems are in place to help them heal as they need to. Two years ago, I lost a friend who had recently served. He was a truly incredible, humble person and had medals to prove it. Yet when he came home, he simply couldn’t adjust, no matter how hard he tried, and when he turned to the system for help it wasn’t there. Devastatingly he took his own life leaving behind family and friends who will forever feel his loss.

Thirdly, while not all of us will fight in armed conflict, we can honour those who have by helping to make our country the best it can be.

It is said the standard we walk past is the standard that becomes acceptable. I know Australia can do better by holding ourselves and our politicians to a higher standard, and ensuring that everyone gets a fair go, no matter their background.

Let’s change the climate in Canberra.

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