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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

PDF version (102 KB)

Saturday, 1 November 2014


[Greetings omitted]

Earlier today we gathered here to commemorate the departure of tens of thousands of Australian and New Zealand servicemen and nurses bound for the battlefields of the First World War.

They were part of the largest single movement of Australians ever to leave our shores.

But today is also significant for three Australians involved in an even larger movement of troops – the men involved in Operation Overlord, better known as D-Day.

In fact, while this morning was largely dedicated to the Army and the Navy, this afternoon is certainly focussed on the Royal Australian Air Force!

The Centenary of ANZAC represents our nation’s century of service.

It is an opportunity for us all to reflect, remember and commemorate not only service and sacrifice from the First World War, but for all conflicts involving Australians since.

Our rich military history, embodied by the ANZAC spirit forged at Gallipoli, on the Somme and in Palestine, set the foundation for millions of Australians who would later serve in the Australian Defence Force.

Monsieur l’Ministre, we are honoured to have you in Albany today so that you may present, on behalf of the French Republic, your nation’s highest honour to three Australians who assisted in the liberation of France during the Second World War.

Australians, of course, fought in France during the First World War.

More than 46,000 Australians were killed fighting on the Western Front in both France and Belgium.

The French people have forever recognised the service and sacrifice of Australians who served in the First World War.

In Villers-Bretonneux in northern France, there is a sign in the school yard which reads ‘Do not forget Australia’.

The Victoria School was named after my home state of Victoria, where school students raised funds after the war to rebuild the school in Villers-Bretonneux.

Thousands of Australians are buried in France, thousands of them with no known grave.

And over the last 100 years, the French people have cared for these lost sons sent from the other side of the world as if they were their own.

Monsieur l’Ministre, on behalf of our grateful nation, I say thank you.

Those who returned from France when the First World War ended would hardly believe that their sons would be sent back to France to defend its liberty barely a generation later.

The Second World War once again cast a pall over Europe, and across Australia.

More than one million Australians enlisted to fight in the Second World War.

Only this time the war was much closer to home, with Darwin attacked and Japanese forces operating much closer to Australia.

Following the declaration of the Second World War in September 1939, Australians again deployed to Europe to defend the same values they fought for in the First World War.

Following the D-Day landing in 1944, around 3,000 Australians served on operations in France.

Most of these were members of the Royal Australian Air Force, with smaller numbers attached to the Royal Navy and the British Army.

Minister Le Drian will shortly tell us more about the service of Tom Lofthouse, Eric Maxton and Murray Maxton in France during the Second World War.

Today it is my honour to host this function to pay tribute to these men, their legacy and the enduring bonds of friendship which exist between France and Australia.

We appreciate your presence in Albany today, Monsieur l’Ministre, reaffirming the kinship between our two nations first forged on the battle fields of the Western Front and rekindled in the dark days of the Second World War.

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

PDF version (102 KB)