Australian High Commission
Papua New Guinea

140902 - Speech - RSL

Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL) Port Moresby Sub-Branch
Dinner in Honour of Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith, VC, MG

Introductory Remarks by the Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea and Patron of the Port Moresby Sub-Branch of the RSL, HE Ms Deborah Stokes

Holiday Inn Ballroom, Port Moresby
30 August 2014


  • Glen Maitland, President of the Port Moresby Sub Branch of the Returned Services League of Australia
  • Our guest of honour, Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith, VC, MG
  • Sub Branch members and sponsors

Ladies and gentlemen, as Patron of the Port Moresby Sub-Branch of the Returned and Services League of Australia, I am honoured to be here this evening to introduce our guest of honour, Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith, VC, MG.

However, before I do, please allow me to say a few words about the important work being done by the RSL, particularly by its Port Moresby Sub-Branch, and also by the Australian Government in preserving the experiences of war in both Australia and Papua New Guinea.

The RSL is one of Australia’s oldest and most respected national organisations. Since its founding in 1916, it has supported and continues to support many thousands of serving and former members of the defence force and their families.

I want to commend the RSL through its Port Moresby Sub-Branch for the important role that it plays.

The war history of Papua New Guinea is an important shared history with Australia.

Next month, we will be commemorating the 100th Anniversary of Australia’s first engagement of Germany in Bita Paka, East New Britain, during World War I.

This will be an important milestone to commemorate.

And in World War Two Australians fought alongside men of the Papuan Infantry Battalion and the Pacific Islands Regiment.

They were assisted by about 50,000 Papuan and New Guinean civilians who carried supplies, evacuated the sick and wounded, and built bases, airfields and other infrastructure.

I am pleased to say that many of these stories are being recorded through the World War Two Oral History Project.

This project announced in May 2013 by the then Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Julia Gillard is producing a comprehensive collection of oral accounts of Papua New Guineans’ experiences in World War Two.

The Project is supported by the Australian and PNG Governments and is being led by PNG’s National Museum and Art Gallery.

A major symposium will be held in Papua New Guinea in 2017, the 75th Anniversary of the World War Two Pacific Campaign, where the research will be released.

Now to tonight’s speaker:

Corporal Roberts-Smith was awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia in 2011 for most conspicuous acts of gallantry in action in circumstances of extreme peril during operations in Afghanistan.

He is also the recipient of a Medal for Gallantry, awarded in 2006, and the Commendation for Distinguished Service in 2013.

Since resigning from his full-time military career in 2013, Corporal Roberts-Smith has joined the corporate world, is working with Defence Force and other charities and serves as Deputy Chair of the Prime Minister’s Advisory Council for Veterans Mental Health.

He remains a member of the Australian Army Reserve.

Corporal Roberts-Smith, we are delighted to have you here with us this evening on the occasion of our Annual Dinner when we honour and recognise the valuable work of the RSL in PNG.

Thank you.