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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 16349

Remarks at the Presentation of the Victoria Cross for Australia to Trooper Mark Donaldson Government House, Canberra

Photo of Rudd, Kevin

Rudd, Kevin

Period of Service: 03/12/2007 to 24/06/2010

More information about Rudd, Kevin on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 16/01/2009

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 16349

Trooper Mark Donaldson VC. Your beautiful wife Emma. And your wonderful, wonderful child. And distinguished Australians one and all.

Today Trooper Mark Donaldson joins the ranks of Australian heroes. And his feat of arms, his feat under fire, now becomes the stuff of Australian legend.

Today Trooper Donaldson joins the ranks of Jacka, of Cutler, of Kingsbury, of so many who have earned this medal of gallantry. Of Simpson, of Payne, and others who have been honoured over the years.

He joins the ranks of our bravest and our finest. In the 153-year history of the Victoria Cross, fewer than 100 Australians have been awarded this highest military honour. And now Trooper Donaldson is one of them.

Trooper Donaldson is the first Australian to receive this award in 40 years. Trooper Donaldson is the first in history to be awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia in the national form of this historic award that was established nearly 20 years ago.

This award is not given lightly, this award has never been given lightly. The scroll on the Victoria Cross is inscribed with two simply words, but two most powerful words. Those words are “for valour”.

It is awarded in recognition of exceptional bravery, of extraordinary courage in the face of the enemy.

What is courage? How is courage measured?

The answer perhaps lies best with those who have known the profession of arms.

General Sherman of the Union Army wrote as follows: “Courage is the perfect sensibility of the measure of danger and the mental willingness to endure it.”

And I read Trooper Donaldson's citation from the Defence Force, and I read it, and I read it again. Because this was courage writ large. It leapt from the page. Bear with me while I read part of it to you again.

“During the conduct of a fighting patrol, Trooper Donaldson was travelling in a combined Afghan, US and Australian vehicle convoy that was engaged by a numerically superior, entrenched and coordinated enemy ambush. The ambush was initiated by a high volume of sustained machine gun fire, coupled with the effective use of rocket propelled grenades. Such was the effect of the initiation that the combined patrol suffered numerous casualties, completely lost the initiative and became immediately suppressed. It was over two hours before the convoy was able to establish a clean break and move to an area free of any fire.

“In the early stages of the ambush, Trooper Donaldson reacted spontaneously to regain the initiative. He moved rapidly between alternate positions of cover engaging the enemy with 56 millimetre and 84 millimetre anti-armour weapons, as well as his M4 rifle. During an early stage of the enemy ambush, he deliberately exposed himself to enemy fire in order to draw attention to himself and thus away from wounded soldiers. This selfless act alone brought enough time for those wounded to be moved to relative safety.”

And in reference to the saving of the interpreter: “His movement, once identified by the enemy, drew intense and accurate machine gun fire from entrenched positions. Upon reaching the wounded coalition force interpreter, Trooper Donaldson picked up and carried him back to the relative safety of the vehicles and then provided immediate first aid before returning to the fight.

“In subsequent occasions during the battle, Trooper Donaldson administered medical care to other wounded soldiers whilst continuing to engage the enemy.”

In our workaday lives, that is the stuff of legend. It is the stuff of Australian legend.

It is the spirit of Kokoda where nobody is left behind.

It is the spirit of ANZAC, as the great CEW Bean has written: “ANZAC stood, and still stands, for reckless valour in a good cause, for enterprise, for resourcefulness, fidelity, comradeship, and endurance that will never own defeat.”

Mark, these men of ANZAC would nod with a knowing pride of your achievements and your feats in the field of battle in Afghanistan.

Within this last week, we have buried one of our best who lost his life in his country's name. And he is one of too many who have done the same, fighting for the values for which Australia stands in the distant mountains of Afghanistan. Many others still have been wounded and I am fearful that there will be more.

As a nation we are proud of all of our men and women in uniform. For there is no higher honour than to wear the uniform of Australia.

Trooper Donaldson, by your deeds you honour your family. By your deeds you honour the Army. By your deeds you honour the country. This country Australia.

At a time of national difficulty, you also speak to the nation's spirit in a way you may not yet understand.

CS Lewis wrote: “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”

Trooper Donaldson, you met the test and you passed with flying colours.

Trooper Donaldson, the nation salutes you. A man of valour. A man who consciously took the decision to place his own life in peril to save the lives of others.

I salute you.

Transcript 16349