Condolences – Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon

I rise to speak on the tragic death of Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon. Primarily I want to offer my deepest sympathy to his family—Joel, Dianne, Caitlin, Grace and Maxine—and his closest friends. Like so many others, I’ve worked with Joel in this parliament over the years. I’m not surprised that his son, from what we’ve heard, inherited so many of his characteristics from his dad, and I have no doubt that those same characteristics helped to make him the man that he became. As has been said here, with Joel as defence minister in 2009, I can only imagine how proud Joel and the whole family would have been when Jack enlisted. However, from a family perspective, none of us ever want to bury a child. It is every parent’s worst nightmare, and when it happens it literally breaks your heart. It’s a nightmare that the Fitzgibbon family now live with, every day and every night. The pride they have for their son and his military career will always be with them. Their love for him, as a son, a brother and a partner, will last forever, but so will their grief and loss.

I acknowledge the enormous courage and personal strength of the Fitzgibbon family, who had the courage to be with us in the chamber last week. I can only imagine the emotional toll, on the back of what the family is already going through day and night, of being here in the chamber to listen to the incredibly respectful and caring speeches that were made for Jack and his family. I also want to acknowledge Jack’s fellow Defence Force members, who also sat in the chamber on Thursday, and acknowledge those in Special Operations Command, who were his mates, and what they have gone through and will continue to go through. We know that they face daily the same risks as Jack in their training and constant preparedness to respond whenever they are called on. Thank you for what you’re doing for this nation every day, and thank you to Jack for his service.

These are the people who are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to keep Australians safe. I’m the daughter of a World War II widow, so I understand exactly what the sacrifice Jack has made means for his family. We’ve lived with it. My own sisters never really knew their dad. They were just babies when he was killed in Papua New Guinea in 1943. What I do know is that Jack Fitzgibbon’s sacrifice is a sacrifice that is, and will continue to be, borne by his whole family and his friends and mates.

I have spoken previously on behalf of the families of our fallen Defence Force members, both in my community and in this place. Given our family’s experience, the following verse is actually for Jack’s family:

You thought of him with love today,
but that is nothing new.
You thought about him yesterday,
and days before that too.
You think of him in silence,
you often speak his name.
Now all you have are memories
and his picture in a frame.
His memory is your keepsake
with which you’ll never part.
God has Jack in his keeping,
but you have him in your heart.

My heart goes out to his family and his mates.

I want to finish my contribution today with a verse for the ages by Charles Bean, the official World War I historian. This is as true today as it was at the end of World War I:

What these men did nothing can alter now. The good and the bad, the greatness and smallness of their story will stand. Whatever of glory it contains nothing now can lessen. It rises, as it will always rise, above the mists of ages, a monument to great-hearted men; and, for their nation, a possession for ever.

Rest in peace Jack Fitzgibbon. Lest we forget.