Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Black Hawk disaster, which occurred near Townsville.
The Black Hawk tragedy is the Army's single worst peace-time loss of life. It claimed the lives of 18 Australian Army personnel from the Special Air Service Regiment and 5th Aviation Regiment.
This was a tragedy for the Australian Army, the Townsville community, the SASR community in Perth and the nation. This accident affected the families, friends and colleagues of the soldiers killed and injured, and was felt by many.
A memorial service to commemorate those who lost their lives in the service of their country will be held locally in Townsville today.
The memorial service will provide families and friends with an opportunity to privately honour their loved ones.
The local Member of Parliament, Ewen Jones, has been invited to attend and will represent the Commonwealth.
In respect of the wishes of the families, the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader will each lay a wreath. The Opposition Leader will lay a wreath prior to the ceremony and the Prime Minister will do so after.
There are also services today in Sydney and at Campbell Barracks, Swanbourne, to commemorate the tragedy.
The Black Hawk accident led Defence to enhance its processes to improve the safety and operability of Army’s helicopters. Flight data and voice recorders were upgraded. Changes were made to training and policy. The Army’s fire and rescue capabilities were reinvigorated, which enhanced field response options and aviation crash rescue skills.
This anniversary and ceremony underscores the ongoing commitment of both the SASR and 5th Aviation Regiment who continue to serve the nation with distinction.
Personnel from SASR have been involved in a number of operational deployments including a significant effort in the Middle East Area of Operations. The 5th Aviation Regiment has deployed personnel and helicopters to East Timor, Iraq, Indonesia, and Afghanistan, as well as on humanitarian missions to Papua New Guinea and Pakistan, and most recently to Fiji earlier this year.