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Barker: Launching the Year of the Veteran

Launching the Year of the Veteran

Veterans' Affairs Minister Rick Barker, along with the Prime Minister, launched the Year of the Veteran at Premiere House in Wellington today. Surrounded by Ministers, dignitaries and Veterans from numerous campaigns, the launch signified the start of a year of recognition.

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Prime Minister Helen Clark, Distinguished Veterans, ex-Service personnel, John Campbell - National President Royal New Zealand Returned Services Association, ladies and gentlemen.

Good afternoon and thank you for being here in Wellington today for the launch of the 'Year of the Veteran.'

The Government has designated 2006 as the Year of the Veteran. This special year will provide all New Zealanders with an opportunity to reflect on and to appreciate the service and sacrifice of our veterans.

I am very proud to be here today as this government's Minister of Veterans' Affairs. In the past five years, this Government has put in place a suite of support services for our veterans and their families.

We have also commemorated a number of significant military anniversaries. We remain committed to continuing that support, but "The Year of the Veteran" provides us with an opportunity to go even further in honouring those who have served.

As Minister of Veterans Affairs, I am very pleased to be chairing a committee that will consider some nation-wide activities and initiatives, such as the presentation of the 'Year of the Veteran' Certificate of Appreciation and Lapel Badge. However, I believe that the focus of the Year of the Veteran most truly belongs in our communities, with our veterans themselves.

To assist local communities in realising their plans for projects and events, the Government has established the "Year of the Veteran Community Grants Fund." There will be funding for community-based projects which will provide for individual communities to recognise and honour their servicemen and women and at the same time to educate our younger people about the special contribution our veterans made for them.

The "Year of the Veteran Community Grants Fund" will provide the opportunity for New Zealanders to recognize and honour, in a demonstrable way, the improvement made to our lives by the service of our veterans.

Grants from that Fund will be available to local authorities, ex-Service groups and other organisations such as schools and local museums that seek support for their projects to recognise and support our veterans.

The Ministerial Steering Group has already received some very impressive, and highly varied proposals from community groups for projects to honour the veterans in their midst. I am looking forward very much to receiving more of these proposals, and seeing them come to actuality over the course of this year.

In 2006, in our towns and in our communities, we have the opportunity in the Year of the Veteran to acknowledge our veterans. By simply saying thanks, we will show our veterans that they are valued.

ENDS

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