Funeral for ex-minister’s son after training death

Jack Fitzgibbon (right) was the only son of former Labor defence minister Joel.

Jack Fitzgibbon (right) was the only son of former Labor defence minister Joel. Photos: Getty/ADF

The prime minister and senior defence personnel are among the mourners farewelling a commando killed during an army training exercise.

Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon, son of long-time Labor MP and ex-minister Joel Fitzgibbon, died on March 7 after a parachute accident.

The incident occurred during what the Australian Defence Force described as a routine Special Forces training activity at the RAAF Base in Richmond, about 50km northwest of Sydney.

The 33-year-old, who had served a decade in the army, was taken to hospital in a serious condition but later died.

Those colleagues who tried to save him were among mourners filling every pew of St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Cessnock, in the NSW Hunter region, on Monday.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was in attendance, while scores more – including former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce – braved rain to view the service on a screen behind the church.

Question Time in federal parliament was delayed on Monday to allow MPs to attend.

Fitzgibbon’s commanding officer described “Fitzy” as a highly competent, modest soldier with an infectious sense of humour and dislike of fuss.

“Looking around this church and around the Cessnock community, I envisage Jack would cringe at the attention and the ceremony surrounding today,” the lieutenant colonel told mourners.

The Fitzgibbons are a prominent family in the Hunter, which Joel Fitzgibbon represented as a federal Labor MP for 26 years after winning pre-selection when his father Eric retired in 1996.

Fitzgibbon has previously said being in the ADF was his son’s dream job.

“Our hearts broke and our lives changed forever,” he said in a statement posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, following the death of his son.

“But we are proud of our beautiful Jack.

“He died doing something he loved and in service to his country.

“Overwhelmed by expressions of love, sympathy and support, we say thanks.

“Lest we forget.”

Albanese also paid tribute to the young soldier and sent condolences to his family following the corporal’s death.

“The extraordinary men and women who volunteer to serve in the Australian Defence Force do our nation proud every day,” he said.

“Every death in the service of Australia carries the heavy weight of loss and sadness (and) the tragedy of a life cut cruelly short.

“This tragic accident is a harsh reminder that there are no easy days for those who defend our nation.”

Lance Corporal Fitzgibbon leaves behind partner Kass, parents Joel and Di and sisters Caitlin and Grace.


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