The Hon. KAYEE GRIFFIN [11.22 p.m.]: On Saturday 4 February 2006 I represented the Premier, the Hon. Morris Iemma, at the National Servicemen's Association New South Wales Branch ceremony held at the Holsworthy army barracks. The dedication service commemorated the men who served in the 12th and 19th national service training battalions, which trained at Holsworthy between 1951 and 1959. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet with a number of Nashos. I wish to make particular reference to Ron Brown, who is the State president of the New South Wales branch of the association. Over the years, Ron, his executive and volunteers have dedicated an enormous amount of time and effort to ensuring that the contribution of national servicemen is recognised appropriately. The aim of the association is to seek recognition, repatriation and support for all Nashos who were conscripted to serve this country or to complete compulsory military training from 1951 to 1972.
The National Service Act 1951 legislated the conscription of males aged 18 and over on or after 1 November 1950 to participate in compulsory service for a period of no fewer than 176 days. The Act also required these men to remain on the reserve of the Commonwealth Military Forces for five years from their initial call-up. Between 1951 and 1959 more than 500,000 men were registered. In 1964 the Menzies Government concluded that the Australian armed forces were inadequate. This resulted in the implementation of the National Service Act 1964. This Act required 20-year-olds to serve in the armed forces for a continuous period of 24 months. The abolition of conscription came in December 1972 following the election of the Whitlam Labor Government.
Holsworthy army barracks plays a prominent role in Australian military history. It has been a military training area for more than 100 years. In the late 1880s Holsworthy was used by the military, including by volunteer soldiers, for training exercises and operations. In 1910 the British Army commander, Lord Kitchener, inspected the site and declared that the area suited a permanent military training area. Following Lord Kitchener's inspection and recommendation the area was officially gazetted and recognised as a military reserve. Military training not only included exercises in the use of weapons, tanks and artillery but also provided housing for soldiers and their families. Another aspect of the base not commonly known is that it housed a horse supply unit with its own veterinary hospital, and during both world wars prisoners were detained on the site.
Prior to World War I, Holsworthy was used by the artillery, Light Horse and engineer militia forces. Holsworthy became the main training camp for volunteers and recruits. Unfortunately, new recruits were ill-prepared. They were forced to participate in drills using broomsticks instead of guns and lived in appalling conditions during their training. Between 1914 and 1922 more than 6,000 men were detained in the German concentration camp. The concentration camp was the largest and most notorious prisoner-of-war [POW] camp in the country throughout the First World War. Men of Austro-Hungarian descent and native-born Australian men of German ancestry were detained without trial, and in many cases without any explanation for their detention. Family members were not informed of the detention of their loved-ones at the camp.
Conditions in the camp were atrocious. It was drastically overcrowded, too hot in summer and too cold in winter. Many of the prisoners were physically and mentally abused by the guards and, because of internal ethnic differences between the inmates, abuse of prisoners by other prisoners was rife. Because of the conditions riots sometimes broke out. While some prisoners tried to escape, others saw suicide as their only option. Prisoners constructed their own barracks, furniture, watchtowers and a railway line. The railway line played an important role in moving troops and horses to various military areas around the site.
At the start of the Second World War there was a huge increase in troop operations. Troop numbers exploded to approximately 40,000. The facilities at the site provided operational training to the troops before they were sent overseas. Following World War II National Service personnel took over part of the site for training. Two battalions of the Nashos trained at Holsworthy whilst a third was stationed at Bardia barracks at Ingleburn. When National Service training was abolished, the buildings were taken over by the cavalry, infantry and transport and engineer units. Today the site is still used by various military units. The School of Military Engineering and the Base Administration Support Centre are also located on the site. Holsworthy still plays a major role and has certainly come a long way since the days when the troops trained with broomsticks instead of guns. I conclude by reciting the national servicemen's ode:
Have you forgotten yet?
Let us all remember those who have served Australia with pride and dedication.
Look up and swear by the green of the spring, that you will never forget.