Guiding light brings story home

By Chris Thomson | posted on October 12, 2018

THE LAUNCH of Albany’s Field of Light: Avenue of Honour artwork at the Mount Clarence war memorial last week sparked vivid memories of Afghanistan for State Veteran Issues Minister Peter Tinley, a onetime member of the crack SAS regiment.

“Those lights, when I stood back and got a good space-and-depth look at them, reminded me of flying in the Middle East and coming into towns in Afghanistan where there was a smattering of lights,” Mr Tinley reflected in an unguarded interview with The Weekender on Friday.

“And it brought back memories of … trepidation and fear of what we might find down there on the ground.”

In 1990, Mr Tinley graduated first in class and was Queens Medallist at the Royal Military College Duntroon.

For 17 of his 25 years in the Army he served with the Special Air Service regiment, which is based in Perth.

“It’s really good to be part of this continuous and unbroken story of Albany’s connection to the Anzacs,” he said.

“Actually, I thought the rain made last night’s opening even more poignant.

“It just added to that sense of place that was so important to the Anzac story and will continue to be important.”

Mr Tinley was the first member in the history of the SAS to advance from Trooper to Squadron Commander.

“One of the things that’s really good about Field of Light is the inclusion of the ‘A’ and the ‘NZ’, in the changing colour of the lights to the Kwhai, the national flower of New Zealand, and the wattle,” he said.

“As Veteran’s Minister I go around always and acknowledge there is an ‘NZ’ in ‘Anzac’, because in major missions in Afghanistan and Iraq and everywhere in between our Kiwi brothers and sisters have been there with us.

“They’re two siblings that don’t mind going each other, from Rugby to under-arm bowling, but the relationship is still very strong.”

During his final appointment as Chief Operations Officer from 2001 to 2004 Mr Tinley was principal planner for operations worldwide including East Timor, Christmas Island (Tampa), Afghanistan and Iraq.

“The challenge for us in Government is to make sure all of Australia knows what’s going on in Albany so people can have a fair opportunity to get here,” the Labor Member for Willagee said.

“And it’s on until April.

“My eight-year-old daughter has committed me to a road-trip to get to it again so she can see it.”