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Previous Ministers' releases and speeches - Senator The Hon. Michael Ronaldson

Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC
Special Minister of State

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Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Speech at the Opening of the Anzac Voices exhibition Australian War Memorial, Canberra

Chairman and Members of Council


Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Friends of the Australian War Memorial

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen

In the crucible of battle, one man’s vision became this nation’s iconic Australian War Memorial.

We are right to honour Charles Bean, the founder of this magnificent institution and the author of the definitive account of Australia’s World War One experience.

This Memorial – our Memorial – is more than just a collection of names.

It is a museum.

It is a museum which seeks to achieve two things.

Firstly, it seeks to explain human sacrifice, service, courage, discipline and bravery.

It seeks to tell our story.

It tells us about the times when ordinary men did extraordinary deeds.

Secondly, it reminds us with each turn of the corner that the price of freedom truly is eternal vigilance.

For more than 72 years, this place has become our nation’s home of reflection, remembrance, and commemoration.

It is quite rightly a much loved place.

For those of you who live in Canberra, the War Memorial sits in the heart of your city.

Many of you would pass it every day, as you go about your daily commuting to work.

You are indeed fortunate to have this magnificent institution in such close proximity.

For those of us who live outside Canberra, a visit to the Memorial is a truly moving experience, whether it be your first or your hundredth.

I am sure we are all aware that more than 900,000 visitors pass through the doors of the Australian War Memorial every year, one in five is a child.

The Memorial clearly means different things to different people.

But the beauty of Bean’s concept is that we can commemorate service and through that commemoration understand their sacrifice.

It helps us understand that the freedoms we enjoy today came at an enormous price for those who served, their families and communities right across Australia.

As Brendan said, I am indeed from Ballarat and still live in Ballarat, and I have represented many of those small towns that saw the heart of their youth literally ripped out from them, and the ramifications are perversely still there today.

Ladies and gentleman, perhaps the hundreds of thousands of children who visit here aren’t necessarily drawn to visit this place for the same reasons we as adults might visit.

Perhaps, instead, they want to see the Ascot boat, used to row our men ashore at Gallipoli.

Maybe it’s Lancaster bomber ‘G for George’ used by Bomber Command and on display in the Anzac Hall.

It could be the Huey in the Vietnam gallery which ferried our soldiers across the jungles of south-east Asia.

It might even be the ASLAV on display in the Afghanistan gallery.

There is no doubt that the things drawing them here will, in time, teach them valuable lessons about where our nation came from, and where they can lead it in the future.

This brings me to the World War One gallery redevelopment.

The Australian Government is very proud to support the redevelopment of these galleries – the oldest galleries and, arguably, the most loved.

It has been clear for a long time that the World War One galleries at the Memorial were in desperate need of refreshment.

I’m told, and am very relieved that the much loved dioramas depicting scenes on the Western Front and in Palestine will remain.

I’m also told that the Ascot boat will take pride of place, very close to the beginning of the journey, chairman, in the new gallery.

The Memorial plans to use multimedia imagery to provide a modern and exciting experience for visitors – young and old, Australian and international alike.

This is indeed our story.

It is a story of our nation.

It is the story of who we are, and where we have come from.

It is indeed, as Brendan said, the soul of our nation.

Shortly, Dr Peter Pedersen will talk about the temporary exhibition – I am very much looking forward to that – which will be open for the next 15 or so months before the old galleries re-open.

I am very pleased that the Council and the Director have made the decision to open this temporary exhibition.

We cannot stop telling this story, even for a short period of time, particularly as we are so close to the Centenary of Anzac.

I’ve had a brief look inside and none of you, I can assure you, will be disappointed.

In conclusion, yesterday afternoon I had the great honour to join the French Minister for Veterans Affairs, Mr Kader Arif, at the Memorial to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier.

There is something truly moving about spending time in the Hall of Memory.

However, after laying our respective wreaths, the feint noise of people in the cloisters and the commemorative area could be heard echoing through the Hall, as you would all be acutely aware.

That was, until the Bugler played the first note of The Last Post.

There was instant silence.

This is a special place.

It is our place.

And it is my great honour to join you here this evening.

Thank you

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) and Veterans Line can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free and confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046

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