Speech: Condolence Motion - Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon

Speech: Condolence Motion - Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon Main Image

Mrs PHILLIPS (Gilmore) (18:22): Today, I rise to speak on this condolence motion on the very sad and tragic passing of Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon. I pay my respects to Jack's family and loved ones—to Kass, Joel, Di, Caitlin and Grace. To Joel, who always supported me over many years by visiting my electorate of Gilmore many times in his agriculture portfolio and here as a member of parliament, and to all of Jack's dear Special Operations Command workmates and friends: I know that you are all going through the most inordinate amount of pain, but I hope that some comfort can be taken from knowing that Jack passed away doing what he loved—and for his country.


Nowra, in my electorate, is home to the Special Operations Command's Australian Defence Force Parachuting School, where, in early November last year, I had the honour of doing my ADF parliamentary exchange. Before I went there, I did not know anything about Special Operations Command nor ADF parachuting, but, as I went around and talked with various SOCOM defence members, I began to get a real appreciation for the work that they do and the way they carry out their work. They were open and honest. They answered my most basic of questions.

In those three days, they did their best to leave me with the best possible understanding of the ADF Parachuting School, but what I went away with was so much more. The relationship between the 2nd Commando Regiment—Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon's unit—and the parachuting school means that 2nd Commando Regiment parachuters often travel to Nowra to do their parachuting proficiency jumps. I also found 2nd Commando Regiment members on course at the ADF Parachuting School, and the ADF Parachuting School instructors and 2nd Commando Regiment members do rotations between the units. But now, thankfully, I understand that a bit more. It is, after all, such a necessary relationship, training our Special Operations Command members to be able to carry out their vital work so they can go back to their SOCOM units and carry out ADF parachuting exercises: parachuting jumps at night, from high or lower altitudes, in freezing temperatures; parachuting into hostile situations; parachuting in humanitarian aid and infrastructure.

Most people in our communities will never really know or understand what our Special Operations Command members will go through. But I can say, from my time at the ADF Parachuting School, that I deeply appreciate and have great respect for what our Special Operations Command members do. There's no fanfare; they just get on with it. That's how Jack, a popular guy, has been described: a no-fuss type of person, confident yet modest, charismatic yet humble, and compassionate yet ruthless.

People in this place will know that I experienced a canopy malfunction and cutaway during my ADF tandem parachute jump. I knew when I stepped out of that plane that all steps had been taken to mitigate risk, but sometimes it isn't enough and a random accident can happen. ADF parachuting, by its very nature, is inherently dangerous and risky, but it's also so necessary for special operations capability. That's what makes our Special Operations Command parachuters like Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon so special.

I can now firmly see why they love parachuting: the adrenaline, falling through the clouds, that feeling of gravity and your senses really feeling alive. I can honestly say I now crave that feeling every day—simple things like feeling the wind or rain on my skin.

I was out the day that I heard of Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon's passing. It was not until I finally stopped that evening that I read that Jack had passed away as a result of an ADF parachuting incident. My heart sank. I felt shattered for Jack's family, for his loved ones, for his workmates at the 2 Commando Regiment, for the wider SOCOM and Army family, and for the SOCOM members at my local ADF Parachuting School and their loved ones that I knew would be hurting.

There have been many wise words of advice given that even I have struggled to comprehend. Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon was doing something that he loved. It's a dangerous activity, but it's the nature of the work SOCOM members do to train in order to protect us all. May Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon's family, loved ones and friends take solace in that he was doing what he loved and for his country. May Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon rest in peace. Lest we forget.