Compassion forged by wartime experience

Little Patti

Before entertainer Little Pattie went to Vietnam in 1966 to perform for Australian troops, her father told her to find out everything she could about the country before she left.

"Initially he was against me going but I was 17 and fearless," Patricia Amphlett (Little Pattie) said.

"This was the first time I'd been overseas - this little blonde kid from Australia certainly stood out!

"My experience in Vietnam formed views, both political and moral, that have stayed with me for the rest of my life.

"Being evacuated by helicopter during the Battle of Long Tan I looked out into the jungle and saw thousands of orange lights - this was the reality of war with a battle going on," Ms Amphlett said.

Having spoken at the Anzac ceremony at Singleton High School, Ms Amphlett said people wanted to understand more about the Vietnam War. "It's important for people to know what happened and kids can relate to it since it is recent history and often a parent or even a grandparent was there.

"It's a war that divided Australia and this hadn't really happened before.

"What I tell people is that war is not a pretty thing, and that it's alright to have your own opinions.

"We live in a democracy - in a country that is very safe.

"I am thrilled that we have the ability to accept people from war-torn lands into our country.

"The biggest war we wage is against ignorance," Ms Amphlett said.

Originally a student from Sydney Girls High School with an ambition to be a doctor, Ms Amphlett said she and her family thought the entertainment industry would just be a short diversion, but it wasn't to be so.

Starting as a 1960s surf-pop singer, with hits such as 'He's my blonde headed, stompie wompie real gone surfer boy', Ms Amphlett was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame in 2009.

Ms Amphlett's career has also seen her active in the union with her being elected federal president of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA).

"The school gave me a great grounding, and Vietnam taught me to be selfless.

"The message I try and give when I talk to crowds is to understand the importance of compassion.

"It doesn't matter if you think a war is wrong - you need to have compassion for the soldiers and the people who are living through the war," Ms Amphlett said.

Photo supplied by Patricia Amphlett.

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