Death of Private Jacob "Jake" Kovco
|About this Item||Subjects||Obituaries; Defence
||Speakers||Megarrity Ms Alison
||Business||Private Members Statements, Condolence
Ms ALISON MEGARRITY (Menai—Parliamentary Secretary) [5.37 p.m.]: I am sure I speak for every member in this place and every person in my community when I express sincere condolences to Shelley Kovco, her children and other family members. Her tribute to her late husband, Private Jacob Kovco, known as Jake, at his funeral yesterday would have moved anyone who heard her words or saw the expression on her face. She said that their children, Tyrie who is aged four and Alana who is almost one, would always know who their father was and that she needed only to look into their faces to be reminded of him. Just a short time ago the Kovco family was no different from many other families living in my community. I have previously informed the House that there are substantial Army facilities in the Holsworthy and Moorebank areas. Private Kovco, only 25 years old, was a member of the 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, known as 3RAR, at the Holsworthy Army base, having joined the Army in 2002. The Australian flag flew at half-mast at the Holsworthy base following the tragic news that Private Kovco had died while serving in Iraq as a member of the security detachment operation catalyst—part of the contribution of Australian Defence Force to the reconstruction of Iraq.
Dealing with the shock and grief of Jake's death would be tough under any circumstances. Unfortunately, his wife and family have had to deal with this situation within the full glare of the media and they have been subject to the publication of rumours and innuendo about their family and his death. Today I did not intend to contribute to the climate of speculation or to comment on the cruel blow delivered during his repatriation. There are many families with one or more partners in military service in my electorate. Today I take this opportunity to remind the House of the sacrifice and difficulties faced by those families. It is something that the wider community tends to take for granted, especially in peacetime. Some time ago I explained to honourable members that the East Timor deployment in 1999 brought home the reality of a career in the defence forces. When the call came many children in our local classrooms experienced periods of long separation—in fact, up to 15 months—from their parents. They also knew well that their parents were in danger.
Only last year I advised the House of a 10-week deployment by the first health support battalion to help the tsunami victims in the ruins of a Banda Aceh hospital, which was later dubbed the Anzac field hospital. While it was a mercy mission rather than a deployment to a war zone, it occurred in a very dangerous environment. During such deployments partners and other family members wait at home—in the case of Private Kovco's son, literally marking off the days on a calendar. Of course, there is also the challenge of maintaining everyday family activities during these absences. Whilst we non-military types can be sympathetic and offer whatever practical support and assistance we can to those in this situation, we can never fully appreciate what it is like to be in their shoes. But those partners and families awaiting a loved one's return understand that reality and provide an invaluable support network for each other during deployment periods.
As a result, Private Kovco's death has sent shock waves across my community. People's worst fears have been realised as one of their own has not had the anticipated safe return with his comrades at the scheduled end of the deployment. My community is suffering along with Shelley Kovco, her children and other members of the Kovco and Small families. It is a rare occasion indeed when I would seek to quote the editorial of the Daily Telegraph to the House. However, today's editorial states:
Soldiering—would we had no need of it. And yet we do. Vale, the brave Jake Kovco. You live on in our hearts.
To Shelley Kovco, their children and Jake's parents, other family and friends, I say that you are very much in our thoughts and prayers. We are deeply saddened by your loss. It is indeed our loss too. But we cannot begin to imagine the depth of your pain—the pain that has been with you since you first heard the terrible news and the pain that you will endure in the weeks and months ahead. We certainly hope that the inquiry that is under way will give some closure to the family regarding the circumstances surrounding Jake's death. We remain steadfast in our support for the families and friends of people who serve our country both in times of peace and of war. For once, I agree with the editorial in the Daily Telegraph and I say: Vale, Jake Kovco.