ANZAC Day Commemorative Address in Avalon

I had the absolute honour of attending many ANZAC Day services throughout the Northern Beaches today.

It was moving to see how many families joined the different events to commemorate our servicemen and women. Whether it to be commemorate a family relation, or teach their children about this important day, you all came out in force.

Below you can watch and reach my ANZAC Day commemorative address, which I had the pleasure of giving at the Avalon RSL service. 

 

 

ANZAC COMMEMORATIVE ADDRESS

AVALON RSL

 

25 April 2017

Check against delivery…

 

If you think about it we are a very strange nation. Here we are, gathering as we do each year, for our most important day of national observance, ANZAC Day. 

Not to commemorate a great victory, but to commemorate a great defeat.

Yet it is at ANZAC that we celebrate the shaping of a true Australian spirit.

When Australians departed in 1915 for the theatres of war, Australia as a federation was barely 14 years old.

Our allegiances were as much to Britain, and our respective home states, as to this new nation called Australia.

We were Brits from New South Wales, from Victoria, from Western Australia.  

We still referred to a trip from London as going home.

Yet our young men and women, the bright hopes of an entire generation, volunteered to join our armed forces out of duty to the king, and a simmering spirit of adventure. 

A newly formed Australian Imperial Force that was called for the first time in service to the nation.

It was in the crucible of this war, in the crucible of this defeat, where man looked into the ravine and when nothing stared back at him, that we started thinking of ourselves as Australians.

We found ourselves; we found character and strength that we didn’t think existed.

And so, each year as we come together to commemorate the service and sacrifice of these brave young Australians, we do so with the knowledge that it was their heroinism and their unimaginable bravery that forged the legacy of a young nation.

The day we choose to remember today, saw 4,000 troops land at Gallipoli as part of an offensive to secure crucial control of the Dardanelles.

The plan was for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps to storm the beach and climb to take three landmarks, that will now forever be in our memory: Chanuk Bair, Scrubby Knoll and Gaba Tepe.  

From these positions, the main body was to advance across the peninsula.

In the early hours on Sunday the 25th of April 1915 the ANZACs were landed one mile to the north of their intended landing site, a place we will forever remember as ANZAC Cove.  

By 2:00pm it had become clear that the plan had failed, and within 24 hours the invasion had become a siege which would last eight and a half long months.

History’s ledger would ultimately record the 60,000 Australians who served, the 8,709 Australians killed and 19,441 wounded on the beaches and impossible cliffs of Gallipoli.

To put this in context during the entire Iraqi conflict, only one Australian soldier died.

An unimaginable sacrifice for many amongst us today. 

So we strive to remember, to remember, not mere numbers on a page, but what those lives meant.

 

I was taught at a young age that what we call history is simply the sum experience of individual lives.  

But commemorating events, battles, both glorious victories and tragic defeats – rather than the human tragedy or triumph lived within these - is to diminish their meaning.

Although one hundred years on from World War One, the stories and the accounts, of bloodshed and sacrifice, can seem distant, we can still find within the ghosts of the past shared emotions, a common spirit.

For the enduring memory of ANZAC is that these Australians from the past, share with us, names that we would recognise, and homes that we would live in today.

For each had a family, and felt love equal to the love we feel for our own. 

For each ‘number’, each soldier that number represents, had parents who experienced both worry and fear, and who too often had to mourn the tragic passing of their child before their time.

Throughout the accounts of the battles, their acts appear superhuman, yet none of these young men or women would have thought themselves exceptional. 

Bravery beyond our comprehension that may even have felt to them commonplace.

Teachers and clerks, engineers and accountants, some were immigrants, while others were first Australians. 

Those who we commemorate today were not strangers, but friends. 

Friends who through their sacrifice, gave us the great and lasting gift of a common identity. 

Forged in the midst of battle, in voices rich with Australian accents, we built a reputation as tough and dogged fighters, as larrikins and jokers, always prepared to have a laugh, but steely eyed in our determination.

We built our reputation for mateship; based on shared and individual responsibility.  

Above all, we stood up for the first time and said with a loud voice: we are unique in our identity, and we are here, as Australians.

So, as we pause today to honour the fallen, and commemorate those who gave service to our nation, we remember the enduring bond that binds all of us here together. 

Courage in the face of adversity, humility in the face of defeat.

A conviction that our shared values, our way of life, are worth fighting for, with bravery and inconceivable sacrifice. 

 

Today, built upon this legacy, we are a tolerant nation, confident and comfortable with our identity, with the capacity to meet any challenge we encounter.

We are a cornerstone of the greatest and most successful peaceful regime in human history. 

Since World War Two, along with our allies, we have been part of an empire that has sought to bring security and peace to the world, instead of seeking expansion.

Not since the Roman Empire, has there been such peace in our time.

We still fight, but in a global context of international law.  

We fight for the rights of the weak and the powerless, as much as we fight for the rights of the powerful.  

That’s what we celebrate today. 

We celebrate the fact that there are people in this country, people in this place, who are willing to fight to keep the flame of liberty and humanity alive. 

Australians willing to serve, to put their lives on the line. 

Their generosity is completely irrational, but we do it again and again and again.

The world is littered with the tombstones of fallen Australians who fought for our ideals.

So for all those who gave their lives in the service of our country, be it at ANZAC, be it during the Second World War, or be it today, we thank you. 

We learn from you, we live for your sacrifice, and we remember.

Lest we forget.