The family of a soldier who was killed while on duty in Afghanistan has thanked Defence Minister Peter Dutton for overturning a decision to strip him, and others, of their military honours.
Mr Dutton on Monday announced he would overturn the decision to strip honours from around 3000 defence personnel who served between 2007 and 2013.
Last year the Chief of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), General Angus Campbell, recommended the meritorious unit citation be revoked for the Special Operations Task Group, in the wake of the Inspector-General of the ADF’s Inquiry report into war crimes.
General Campbell announced the move while handing down the explosive report which found Australian special forces murdered at least 39 prisoners and civilians during the Afghanistan war.
The decision was met with significant criticism within defence and veterans circles, as well as the government.
As a result, General Campbell walked back the idea earlier this year, saying he did not want to “be at odds” with the government’s position on the issue and to avoid “negative public attention”.
- Related: Read the redacted IGADF report here.
The parents of Private Gregory Sher, who was killed in a rocket attack in 2009, thanked Mr Dutton for the move.
“We express our sincere appreciation for your decision to only withdraw the Meritorious Unit Citation for those soldiers who have been convicted of misdemeanours,” Felix and Yvonne Sher said.
“The Brereton Report and subsequent decision by CDF Angus Campbell were grossly unfair and devoid of thorough analysis.
“The psychological effect that his decision would have had on those that served with honour and on families like ours would have been most hurtful and groundless.”
On Monday, Mr Dutton told Nine Radio the decision would be reversed given the vast majority of ADF personnel did nothing wrong.
“Those people deserve our recognition, our praise, our honour, because many of them have lost mates,” he said.
“Families this Anzac Day should proudly wear that medal in honour of their loved one who passed away in the service of this country.”
But Mr Dutton did make clear anyone found to have committed a war crime would still lose the honour.
“My judgment was that we shouldn’t be punishing the 99 per cent for the sins of one per cent,” he said.
“This says to people very clearly before Anzac Day that we want to reset, that we want to provide support to those people who have served their country and as I say, who have died in that service.”
The citation was awarded to the Task Groups for “sustained and outstanding warlike operational service in Afghanistan from 30 April 2007 to 31 December 2013, through the conduct of counter-insurgency operations in support of the International Security Assistance Force”.
In a speech to be delivered on Monday, Chief of Army Lieutenant Rick Burr will argue his organisation needs to “rely on a culture that is aligned with optimal behaviours”.
“Good soldiering is who we are. We are individuals of good character and sound ethical grounding,” General Burr will tell the Chief of Army Symposium in Brisbane.
“We create strong teams who actively include others and bring people together to be effective and achieve their mission.”