RSL Calls for Action Against Cowardly Vandals

Media Release RSL Australia

The Returned & Services League of Australia (RSL) has called for concerted government action to protect Australia’s war memorials and for an increase in penalties for the cowards and vandals caught defacing and desecrating them.

This follows the recent spate of vandalism and the daubing of violence and hate slogans on national war memorials in Canberra and elsewhere around the country, with the most recent incident the desecration of the Korean and Vietnam War Memorials in the national capital last weekend.

RSL National President Greg Melick said Australia’s war memorials were sacred sites, honouring those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice or suffered in defending our nation and our freedom-loving ideals.

He said Australia’s service personnel’s sacrifice over more than 100 years must be respected and revered, and the ideals they fought and died for must be protected forever. All levels of Government had a responsibility to act in a concerted response to the actions of the cowardly vandals who viewed our sacred war memorials as platforms for protest.

Greg Melick called for increased security and surveillance at war memorials, for State and Territory Governments to substantially increase penalties for those convicted of defacing these monuments, and for the development of a national education and respect program to promote the significance and sanctity of our war memorials.

“The Australian Government can and should lead the push by developing an education and respect program, by increasing security at our national memorials in Canberra, encouraging State and Territory Governments to substantially increase penalties for this vandalism and through supporting local government to enhance security and surveillance at local monuments.

“The veteran community is angry, and the Australian public is sickened by the actions of these vandals, who somehow want to blame those who have died or suffered protecting our nation for a conflict in Gaza that, in reality, Australia has little or no influence, impact or responsibility.

“In the opinion of the RSL, the veteran community, and we believe that of all fair-minded Australians, these vandals are deserving of our utter contempt and maximum punishment. They only damage public support for whatever cause they are promoting.

“The vandals must be apprehended and receive the strongest possible penalties. Appropriate penalties must be imposed by the courts to align with the strong community revulsion at this desecration of our sacred sites.

“People are entitled to protest. It is a right for which our veterans fought to protect. But this right must be exercised responsibly, and the disrespect and defilement of memorials to those who served, suffered or died in the service of the Australian nation must be deplored.”

Greg Melick said the RSL would use every opportunity, through its national organisation, State Branches and Sub-Branches, to raise with all levels of government the issue of increased security at war memorials and the introduction of appropriate penalties for their desecration, as well as a program to educate people about the sanctity of these monuments.

“The RSL is prepared to play a role in the development of this program and to emphasise that War Memorials and Cenotaphs are not platforms for disrespect and protest,” he said.

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