Guy Barnett,Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
The Federal Government’s decision that it will deny Ordinary Seaman Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheean a Victoria Cross for Australia, despite the recommendations of the independent Defence Honours and Awards Appeal Tribunal, is extremely disappointing.
Teddy Sheean is one of Tasmania’s best-known wartime servicemen. Born in Latrobe, he was just 18 when he died on board HMAS Armidale in 1942, defending his shipmates from enemy attack whilst his ship sank beneath him.
Last year’s Tribunal inquiry into Sheean’s actions was a merits-based review established by the Federal Government based on my application for a review consistent with the Defence Act (1903).
During two days of public hearings held in Hobart last March, the Tribunal heard from myself as the applicant, the Sheean family, Royal Australian Navy (as respondent), RSL Tasmania and a published naval historian.
The evidence presented was overwhelming and compelling in favour of a Victoria Cross. Based on that evidence, the Tribunal unanimously found that Sheean meets the eligibility criteria for the Victoria Cross for Australia.
It is staggering that the Federal Government has not accepted the Tribunal’s recommendation that Sheean be posthumously awarded a Victoria Cross for his pre-eminent act of valour.
Teddy’s conspicuous act of gallantry ranks him alongside other distinguished service men and women who have received our highest military honour for bravery, the Victoria Cross, including people like Harry Murray VC and Cameron Baird VC MG. He made the ultimate sacrifice to protect his fellow shipmates in the most perilous of circumstances and deserves better than this.
Along with members of the Sheean family and others, I have fought for 17 years to see Teddy’s extraordinary bravery recognised with a Victoria Cross.
We will closely examine the Tribunal’s report as part of determining the next step in the ongoing campaign to see this extraordinary young Tasmanian honoured.
I do not accept the Prime Minister’s decision and will ask the Federal Government to reconsider.
I will further consider all available options to ensure Teddy Sheean receives what he is entitled to.