After many failed attempts, expensive taxpayer-funded inquiries and most recently a full Prime Ministerial 180, the fate of the rightful posthumous Victoria Cross for Edward “Teddy” Sheean rests with Queen Elizabeth II. Congratulations to Sheean’s nephew Garry Ivory and Bass Liberal MHA Guy Barnett who have persistently campaigned for this outcome for 17 years.
Sheean’s legend is well known and anyone who doesn’t deem such heroic actions deserving of national recognition must not have ever considered themselves in his position under enemy fire on a sinking ship.
And in what should have been a straight forward decision in the eyes of many, Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie is correct in saying this whole process has been messy, stupid, has taken far too long and cost way too much. The process has been politicised from the get-go. The handing out of Australian military honours is extremely political and the Morrison government is just the latest to be swept up in the saga.
In May, the federal government rejected the unanimous advice of the independent Defence Honours and Awards Tribunal to award the WWII sailor Australia’s highest military honour. The decision stunk at the time and the backlash was appropriate.
Yet on Monday, Scott Morrison finally sent Her Majesty a recommendation to proceed after a panel he commissioned also found that the 18-year-old Ordinary Seaman was worthy for his exemplary actions in 1942. And while panel head Brendan Nelson is correct in saying that “awarding a Victoria Cross eight decades after the events is something that should not be entered into lightly and only when the evidence is compelling”, the fact is it shouldn’t have taken this long in the first place as the evidence was already compelling before his panel agreed with millions of Australians.
If approved, it’s a significant achievement for Teddy who didn’t set out to be awarded a VC, but it is highly likely he will become the 101st Australian and 15th Tasmanian to receive one and even more remarkable the inaugural Royal Australian Navy serviceman. Well done Teddy you deserve it – let’s hope the Queen comes to the party.