Media Release by Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

Government to sponsor Veteran’s heroes reunion

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Bruce Scott MP, Federal Minister for Veterans Affairs

The Federal Government will sponsor two Australians to attend a reunion of Victoria Cross and George Cross recipients in London later this month.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Bruce Scott, and Minister for Family and Community Services, Amanda Vanstone, said today the Government would help Victoria Cross (VC) holder, Keith Payne, and George Cross (GC) holder, Michael Pratt, to attend the reunion organised by the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association.

The two men will be among 38 of the 50 surviving VC and GC holders who are expected to attend the reunion from May 29-31. The association has held a reunion every two and a half years for the past 50 years.

Mr Payne and Mr Pratt will leave for London on Friday 25 May 2001. Among their first engagements will be a reception at St. James Palace, hosted by Her Majesty the Queen Mother, who is President of the association.

Mr Scott said there were only 21 VC and 29 GC holders still alive in the world.

“It is only appropriate that we recognise their special status as holders of the highest decorations for valour in the Commonwealth and, indeed, the world,” Mr Scott said.

Senator Vanstone said it was important not to forget what men like Mr Payne and Mr Pratt had contributed.

“These two men are an inspiration to us all and by sponsoring their trip I believe we are going someway to recognising their supreme efforts.”

The Victorian Cross is the highest decoration for valour in the British Armed forces and the George Cross is a British civilian and military decoration “for acts of the greatest heroism or the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger”.

Mr Payne was awarded his VC for his actions in Vietnam in 1969, when he was in charge of a company of indigenous Montagnard soldiers of the 1st Mobile Strike Force Battalion. In darkness, Keith made several trips alone through enemy lines to rescue wounded men from his company, carrying them to safety. During a period of 12 hours, he succeeded in rescuing 40 men.

Mr Pratt was awarded the George Cross in 1978. A member of the Victorian Police, he was seriously wounded while attempting to capture three men who had taken part in an armed robbery in Melbourne. As a result of his wounds, Michael prematurely retired on medical grounds from the police force.