12 July 2017
Speech - #2017013, 2017

In the role of: Minister for Revenue and Financial Services [19 July 2016 - 28 August 2018]

Weary Dunlop Commemoration Service and launch of annual appeal of the Weary Dunlop Foundation

Check against delivery

Good morning, everyone.

Firstly I would like to acknowledge:

  • Air Chief Marshal Sir Angus Houston AK, AFC (Retired)
  • Victorian Minister for Veterans, the Honourable John Eren MLA
  • State RSL President, Dr Robert Webster OAM
  • Representatives of ex-service organisations and serving members
  • Ex-prisoner of war Mr Colin Hamley and Mrs Val Hamley
  • Mr John Dunlop, grandson of Weary Dunlop
  • Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

When Java fell to the Japanese in March 1942, Weary Dunlop had the opportunity to escape but refused to abandon his patients. He knew he would become a prisoner of war, though he could never have imagined the cruelty and brutality he would encounter when he came to serve as both a doctor and a commanding officer on the Thai-Burma railway.

I note the presence here today of several former prisoners of war, including Mr Colin Hamley, who worked on the Thai-Burma railway he understands – as few others can – the significance of Weary Dunlop’s decision on that day, and of his actions in the months and years that followed.

As we’ve heard this morning, Sir Edward’s unwavering dedication to his fellow prisoners was evident throughout his career. That desire to help people lives on through the work of the Sir Edward Dunlop Medical Research Foundation, now the Weary Dunlop Foundation.

Sir Edward had a vision to improve the quality of life of returned service personnel. As the driving force behind the formation of the Foundation, its inaugural patron and a prolific fundraiser, he ensured that his vision became a reality. Its formation remains one of Sir Edward’s greatest achievements.

Mr Hamley, by the way, was treasurer of the Ex-POW Association of Australia in the 1980s when Weary Dunlop was president. He was later instrumental in the ‘Tribute to Weary’ fundraising campaign, which raised $60,000 to help create the Sir Edward Dunlop Medical Research Foundation.

Established in 1985 as a joint venture between the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and Victorian ex-service organisations, the Foundation has the wellbeing of veterans at its heart.

For more than 30 years it has made a vital contribution to funding research into medical conditions prevalent among ex‑service personnel and their families, from mental illness including post-traumatic stress disorder to prostate disease, cardio-vascular disease, bone function and diabetes.

Each year, the Foundation awards six grants of $20,000 each to applicants from the Victorian medical research community, usually young and emerging researchers whose merit in terms of research subject and relevance to the ex-service community is assessed by an expert panel.

Through its support of the Dunlop Senior Research Fellow at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, the Foundation has boosted Australia’s medical research capability in the field of veterans’ health.

Research like this is critical to ensuring evidence-based veteran policy and programs.

It has not only helped to improve the health and wellbeing of veterans, but also their families and the broader community — many of the Foundation’s projects have helped to keep our health industry better informed about the future needs of Australia’s ageing population.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs continues to support the Foundation’s aims and to assist in the promotion of its medical research agenda.

Major ex-service organisations including the RSL Victorian Branch and the Ex-Prisoners of War & Relatives Association and community-minded companies and individuals also provide support to the Foundation.

The Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retired) serves as its Chief Patron while Mr Hugh Morgan AC is its patron.

To continue its invaluable work, however, the Foundation must raise funds. To that end, I am pleased to officially launch the 2017 Sir Edward Dunlop Medical Research Foundation Appeal.

The Foundation’s annual appeal provides an opportunity for Australians to give generously to support Australian medical research into conditions affecting veterans and their families.

Running until 25 July, the appeal is the Foundation’s biggest fundraising event of the year.

I encourage Australians to support this worthy cause by volunteering to assist with fundraising efforts by selling lapel pins or by giving generously.

Sir Edward Dunlop’s life was spent in service to others, whether as a highly respected surgeon, soldier, sportsman or scholar. But he always said it was a mistake to focus on his own achievements because he was only one among thousands.

Today, we remember all those servicemen and women, veterans and families who have put the needs of others before their own, and recognise the efforts of the volunteers who further the work of the Weary Dunlop Foundation.

Thank you all.