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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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Saturday, 1 November 2014
MINVA059

***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***
SPEECH AT THE ALBANY CONVOY COMMEMORATIVE EVENT

[Greetings omitted]

Today marks a significant anniversary in the history of our nation.

From this place, on this day a century ago, thousands of Australian and New Zealand servicemen departed on what many considered to be a great adventure.

For the first time, our nations were to contribute on a large scale to major world events.

For the men that departed from here there was no inkling that they were to create a legend on the shores of Gallipoli – they expected to travel to England to fight on the Western Front.

Of the thousands who left our shores throughout the war, very few returned unscathed.

More than 60 percent of all Australians who departed, and more than 50 percent of the New Zealanders, were killed or wounded.

Today marks the beginnings of a tragic loss of life for our nations.

It is a cause for reflection, to commemorate battles lost and to celebrate those remarkable, stirring victories fought and won by our two nations..

A correspondent for the Melbourne Age, Phillip Schuler, left a vivid record of the gathering of the convoy in his book Australia in Arms.

Of many thrilling scenes it needs no great effort of memory to recall that Albany Harbour as those on the flagship saw it first through the grey mists of the early morning of 26th October.

Almost the last of the Australian ships to enter port, the wind drove the waves over her bows and cast the spray on the decks.

Most of the Divisional Staff, barely daylight as it was, were on deck, peering through the mists to catch the first glimpse of the host that they now knew lay at anchor in the harbour.

First it was a visionary, fleeting glimpse of masts and funnels, and then, as the coast closed in darker on either bow and the beacons from the lighthouses at the entrance flashed, I could see the shapes of ships gradually resolving themselves into a definite shape, much in the way a conjurer brings from the gloom of a darkened chamber strange realities.

The troops were astir and crowded to the ships’ sides.

They stood to attention as the liner glided down the line of anchored transports, for the mass of shipping was anchored in ordered lines.

The bugles rang out sharp and clear the assembly notes, flags dipped in salute to the General’s flag at the mast-head.

It was calm now inside this refuge…

Schuler, later at Gallipoli, secured some of the most memorable photographs of the conflict.

Returning to Australia, he hastily wrote and published his record of the campaign and then enlisted in the AIF.

He rose rapidly through the ranks.

Phillip Schuler, one of Australia’s most talented journalists and writers, died of wounds received in June 1917 on the Western Front.

He was riddled with shrapnel, being hit in the face, throat, left arm and right leg.

His great voice was silenced forever.

His loss was representative of all those who sailed from this place, to meet their fate in foreign lands.

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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