Our War Widows ... Our National Shame

All Australians should be ashamed of our Government’s appalling treatment of the families of those members of our defence forces who die on active service.


The latest example is the unforgivable treatment of the widow of Sgt Brett Till. Six months ago Sgt Till was killed while trying to disarm a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.  Just two weeks later, his widow, Breeanna, pregnant with the couple’s third child, found that her late husband’s weekly wage dropped from $905 to $305.


This places her on the same level of financial support as a single mother on welfare. This is simply unacceptable. 


Any Australian who places his life on the line for our nation should do so knowing that, should the worst happen, his family would be financially secure for life.


Our politicians are always there for the photo opportunity when our Defence Forces leave for an overseas deployment.  They line up for the on-site photo tour with their borrowed flak jackets and helmets. They mouth their “profound sympathy” condolences when tragedy strikes … then they turn their eyes away.


Even their senior comrades in the military must do more to change a deeply flawed system. The Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston was quoted as saying: “To the family, I say that our thoughts and prayers – my thoughts and prayers – are with you. I’ll ensure you’re supported through your time of grief.”


Breeanna Till and the growing list of widows like her cannot live on thoughts and prayers. Their families have made terrible personal sacrifices for our nation. They are not statistics. They are real people. They have real needs: housing; living expenses; education costs.


The time has come for our government to accept its sacred duty and ensure that this system is changed and changed urgently. If necessary, our military commanders should take the initiative and publicly advocate the change, shaming the government into action if necessary.