Guess who was Awarded the 2006 Australian of the Year Award? Are you paying attention America?

There is a great article at Tanker Brothers about the Australian Troops. I was so impressed and moved by this story I went to the newspaper and also got the whole story. Today I want to also honor one of the Coalition force’s staunchest allies and a great friend to America.

Here’s my salute to you – Diggers!

Here’s the news story that covered Australia’s salute to their “Diggers:”

Join us in saluting the Aussie Digger
D.D. McNicoll and Mark Dodd
January 20, 2007

ALL Australians are invited to join us in saluting the Australian Digger – the men and women of the Australian Defence Force who we are proud to collectively name recipients of The Weekend Australian’s 2006 Australian of the Year award.
From the tropical humidity of East Timor to the freezing winter deserts of Afghanistan, 2900 Diggers are today serving in seven operational theatres across the globe, continuing the honoured tradition of the Anzacs.
Their role has evolved enormously from the actions of the men who landed at Gallipoli or who later fought in the mud of Kokoda and the jungles of Korea and Vietnam. They are still fighting a war – but it is a war on terrorism rather than a conflict between nations. The deaths last year of Private Jake Kovco in Iraq and Captain Mark Bingley and SAS Trooper Josh Porter in the November Black Hawk crash off Fiji prove our troops still work in an inherently dangerous field. But today’s men and women of the ADF are as much peacekeepers as warriors and are as much at home digging a well or rebuilding a civilian hospital as mounting a night attack or keeping watch over hostile waters. Lance Corporal Simon Majewski and Private Joshua Thompson are part of the contingent of Australian troops that make up Operation Slipper in Afghanistan. Their duties include patrolling southern Afghanistan and securing areas to enable engineering forces to move in and undertake construction projects. Corporal Allan Reilly, who is also stationed in Afghanistan, said his army mates had been thrilled to learn of the Australian of the Year award. “We’re definitely winning the hearts and minds of the locals – that is without a doubt. We treat them like we like to be treated ourselves and we get along with them well,” Corporal Reilly said. The editor-in-chief of The Weekend Australian, Chris Mitchell, said yesterday the decision to give the award to the ADF personnel en masse was in recognition of their unstinting service to the country. “From Afghanistan and Iraq, through to East Timor and our involvement in Melanesia, the Australian military has stood ready to shoulder far bigger burdens than our country’s population would suggest possible,” Mr Mitchell said. “Australians owe the military a great deal, particularly in our immediate region.”
Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, was “over the moon” when told about the award yesterday.He said it was a worthy and timely acknowledgement of the hard work and effort of the 51,000 men and women who comprise the all-volunteer ADF.“It’s great news and I think it’s a very deserved recognition for a lot of people, right across the defence organisation, who do such a magnificent job in the challenging circumstances we’ve seen in the last 12 months.”Australia’s Operation Catalyst troop commitment in Iraq is currently at 1400, including 110 soldiers and light-armoured vehicles guarding diplomats in Baghdad and 450 troops and light-armoured vehicles in the southern Dhi Qar province.Other troops are assigned to coalition headquarters, training Iraqi soldiers and disarming explosive devices.

Operation Slipper accounts for 510 troops, the majority of whom are assigned to patrol and engineering work in Oruzgan province. A further 110 personnel support two CH-47D Chinook helicopters in Kandahar.

Australia’s contribution to the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands comprises 140 troops, including soldiers supporting federal police patrols and officers at RAMSI headquarters.

In East Timor, there are 800 troops as part of an Australian and New Zealand-led mission to enforce peace in the fledgling state after last year’s fighting between East Timorese soldiers and police. Australians are also serving in Sudan, Egypt and Israel in a variety of roles.

The ADF has been operating at a punishing tempo in recent years with overseas deployment numbers reaching as high as 5000 during the East Timor crisis last May and again at the height of the Fiji coup last month. High in the Afghan hills, the Diggers continue their work, despite the freezing conditions and hardships of life with no complaints.

Support from family and friends back home has a large part to do with it, said Corporal Allan Reilly. “We have excellent communications back to Australia via email, telephone, mail itself by post coming in or out,” Corporal Reilly said.

On his third deployment following earlier tours of duty to Iraq and tsunami-devastated Aceh, Corporal Reilly spoke to The Weekend Australian of his parents and their strong support and understanding for his work. “I believe they’re understanding of our task over here. They’re just looking forward to our return home.” Corporal Reilly said he was in no doubt Afghanistan was a dangerous place but the Australian contingent was “well trained and well equipped to deal with any circumstances”.

Air Chief Marshall Houston said he never ceased to be surprised by the spirit of Australia’s servicemen and women – an attitude he said had been the part of the ADF throughout its existence. “Every time I go on these various operations, it’s a very uplifting experience. I see young Aussies doing a magnificent job for Australia and they really do make a difference,” he said. “I think they follow in the footsteps of their forebears.”

Air Chief Marshall Houston admitted he had worrying moments when he signed off on deployment orders sending servicemen and women into potentially dangerous situations such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Certainly I always think about the risks and I worry a little about those risks because we do do some very dangerous work, some high-risk work,” he said. Life on the ground for our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, where 1900 troops are deployed, is still dangerous.

In November last year, John Howard attended a ceremony at an army base in western Sydney where Governor-General Michael Jeffery presented a Star of Gallantry medal – which ranks behind only the Victoria Cross for bravery – to a commando sergeant for his courage under fire in Afghanistan earlier in the year.

Despite worsening sectarian violence in Iraq, Australia’s 1400-strong Middle East taskforce, comprising army, navy and air force, are achieving good results – whether maintaining security in al-Muthanna, flying aerial reconnaissance or logistics missions or undertaking hazardous patrols in the Persian Gulf.

But the ADF is also starved of recruits, particularly in the technical area. Skilled tradesmen are urgently needed to service weaponry being delivered or on order.

I did a little research on Australia and the “Diggers.” I thought you all might find this interesting, too. So, here is a bit of Australian history. Enjoy:

Australia’s history has a very unique and colorful history. Its human history is clouded in controversy. Experts cannot seem to agree whether of not Australia’s human prehistory began 850,000 years ago or 40,000 years ago. What I find extremely interesting the fact that its prehistory has an “anatomically modern human” that is not found anywhere else on earth.

There is a theory, the ‘Out of Africa’ theory of human evolution, that man is related to a woman who lived in Africa 200,000 years ago. This is based on mitochondrial DNA. However, in Australia, its prehistory has “Mungo Man.” Mungo man is an “anatomically modern human” that has no genetic link to the African woman.

My personal theory is “they’re aliens!” It fits my conspiracy theory interests about Roswell, New Mexico and the strange circumstances of the ruins in South America that look like a huge craft runway from the air and the theories about the Pyramids in Egypt with their coincidental alignment to the heavens at certain times. Sorry, guys, I just couldn’t let that one pass me by, lol! Anyway back to Australia’s history.

There is also a great amount of controversy about the origins of the Aborigines. There are fossils to indicate that some people came from New Guinea about 70,000 years ago. After these “Robust” people from New Guinea, another group called “Gracile” came about 20,000 years later. The Robust had a more sturdy bone structure than the Gracile. To further complicate or confuse the issue, the Gracile bone structure is similar to the bone structures of bones found in China dating back about 70,000 years.

Since about 35,000 years ago, the Aborigines and Indians [India] may have shared genes. So, did the Aborigines go to India or was it the other way around. What about the Chinese? No one is certain right now!

Travel to Australia picked up in the three hundred year period from the  15th-18th centuries. First the Portuguese, then the Dutch went there. Of these it appears only the Portuguese may have tried, unsuccessfully, to colonize. Since only their cannons have been found, no one really knows for sure. The Dutch originally decided not to claim Australia.

But they did wind up leaving two men marooned in Australia after the Batavia, an East India Company ship wrecked in Australia. The rest of the 316 people aboard were rescued. It is believed that at least one, maybe even both of the two men, Wouter Loos and Jan Pelgrom de Bye, survived because later when European explorers found the Aborigines, there were Aborigines with Blue eyes.

We all know what happened next. The English explorers found Australia in the 18th century. The terrain on the east coast was so harsh the English decided to keep criminals there. Hm! Wonder how many of those criminals had only stolen a loaf of bread to keep from starving. No offense, UK, lol! That was all in the past.

In 1788 Old Sydney town was built by the criminals for themselves and their guards to live in. England decided to make Australia a deterrent to crime in England by mistreating the criminals there. This cruelty only added to the hardships of surviving in a place where crops failed due to the heat and the indigenous animal population was hard to catch.

This became the status quo until the convicts rebelled in the 19th century. Those who escaped the authorities that squashed the rebellion went into the bush and became the heralded “bushrangers.” The bushrangers occasionally grew in size when another prisoner escaped. But in 1880 Ned Kelly was executed and thus ended the era of the “bushrangers!”  

In the 20th century Australia became federated as a nation. It immediately put into law the Immigration and Restriction Act or the “White Australia Policy.” The act was used to control non-white immigration into the newly formed Brittish nation.

Australian troops to fought  for England in the 9 month long Gallipoli campaign. Australia again helped the British during WWII. But the British just let the Japanese take over the region and refocused all their efforts on Europe. This was seen as a big betrayal to the Australians. When the United States campaign got underway in the Pacific after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Australia  fought with America. They were also our allies in Korea,Vietnam and now, Iraq.

Many things changed after WWII in Australia. The convicts considered themselves legitimate Australians because they were the ones sent to Australia by the English court system. There was also an air of they were the only Europeans who had a legitimate reason to be in Australia. Later they were called emancipists because they had attained their freedom. All free British settlers called themselves Exclusives. These guys felt their special place of being free settlers from the beginning of colonization meant they got to run the show.

Lastly, if you were the child of an emancipated convict, you were considered Native born and therefore were lower than everyone else. Oddly, or maybe fortunately if you were Aboriginal, both disliked each other far more than the Aborigines.

This was not quite the case with the Aborigines because as the original colony expanded due to the arrival of more Europeans, it infringed on their land. So now we have exclusives who don’t identify with the emancipists and vice versa and the Aborigines who are hostile to both for infringing on their land. But, they were friendly and worked for the then native born [children of the emancipatists]. Their shared and admired their knowledge of the land with them.

Gold was discovered in Australia in 1853. Miners came from all over the world just as they did during the California gold rush days. Along with them, they brought along a barrel of values that changed much in Australia. They were loyal to each other, extremely independent, hard working, and had a love of freedom and equality. They had one other common trait, they hated authority. This led to their forming of unions. Of course the “elite” tried to bust up the unions by importing Chinese laborers.

This gave rise to “unity” among the Diggers, the Wowsers, who were loyal to England and considered themselves Brittish instead of Australians, and activists who redirected their anti-transportation energies to anti-Chinese efforts. The Chinese, meanwhile, had mostly gone back to China but the rest, unlike those who came to America in the early days to build the railroad, mingled into the Australian society.

This all erupted into another social evolution. There were the pioneers who began to carry on the bushranger tradition and culture of the original bushrangers; the Digger “soldiers” who fought in the Gallipoli campaign and hated the English soldiers that they called “Poms” because they considered them incompetent cowards therefore making them work harder to be better soldiers than the English, and lastly the Wowsers, people without a cause who now became obsessed with a league of English values  and tried to enforce them on everyone else. This all seemed to highlight the years from 1900-1950.

The changes that occurred in Australia from the initial establishment of the prison colony up to 1950 had a profound effect on the Aborigines. They were no longer considered “the ‘noble savages’ who were without sin as they have never learnt it.” Tribal identification was not even considered anymore; they were just Aborigines!

On their part, the Aborigines began looking at things as a white versus black issue. They couldn’t quite make up their mind about the Chinese. To quote my source:
“Perhaps assessments of Aborigines also went downhill in mainstream society. When the bush was held up as the “true Australian” the Aborigines were celebrated as the prototypical bushmen. As the bush lost its iconic status, so too did the Aborigines that lived in it.”

Their fate was very much like the fate of the American Indians, except they did not get relegated to Reservations as the American Indians did.

This has turned out to be much more than a history of the Diggers. Inadvertently, it has also wound up being a history of Australia from colonization to the present. I found it to be a very fascinating chronicle. In many ways, it reminds me of my own American history. I hope no offense is taken at this comparison as none was intended.

However, unlike America, Australia, as a nation, seems far more appreciative of its soldiers, even though there are still many cultural differences and issues to resolve. But, all nations have their problems. Nations are always evolving. No nation can expect to continue if it can’t put aside its differences at a time like we are all living in right now. We, in America, could learn a lot from the Australians.

Congratulations “Diggers.” You earned it!

~ by devildog6771 on January 21, 2007.

3 Responses to “Guess who was Awarded the 2006 Australian of the Year Award? Are you paying attention America?”

  1. […] recently wrote a post called “Guess who was Awarded the 2006 Australian of the Year Award? Are you paying attention America… In Australia, their servicemen were awarded the “Australian of the Year Award.” Today […]

  2. Great post JT. I whole heartedly agree.

  3. G’day

    some things that tend to trouble me when i flick past fox news or CNN is that during the Anti-war protests the protesters rarely make the distinction between the person who sent them there and the poor buggers stuck there serving their country. regardless of what anybodies views on the Iraq/afgan conflicts are, these are your sons and daughters in harms way for better or for worse never critisize your soldiers and do everything you can to keep their morale high, the only time an army will fall is when there not supported by their country when they need them most and America your sons and daughters need you all now.

    Cheers all and keep fighting the hard fight, cause nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

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