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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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Tuesday, 2 September 2014
VA048

TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW
BREAKFAST WITH DAVE SULLIVAN – 2SM SYDNEY

Topics: Centenary of Anzac, Local Grants Programme 

MINISTER RONALDSON: On the fourth of August, with the commencement of the First World War, we commence the four and half year period of commemoration, commemorating a centenary of service and it will be our most important and significant period of remembrance and part of that is the local Centenary Grants Programme.

There’s close to $19m that will go to hundreds of projects all over Australia - for men and women in the smallest of country towns through to Sydney - to commemorate and organise events for this centenary. It really is a very exciting programme and I announced some more funding yesterday, including the re-enactment of the Kangaroo March which occurred from Wogga Wogga to Campbelltown in 1915.

There’s been about $700 000 to NSW projects and there’s still a lot to be rolled out as there’s about $6m allocated to those NSW electorates. Local MPs put together commemorative groups. They looked at the applications and made recommendations to DVA. But it is important to reflect that we have had a Centenary of Service up until now so it’s not just 100 years ago and we should never forget that.

DAVE SULLIVAN: Inaudible.

MINISTER: Just to put this in to perspective, Australia’s population was under five million at the start of the First World War. Well over
400 000 enlisted, well over 330 000 served overseas, and nearly 62 000 Australians gave their lives.

I’m a country boy from Ballarat in Victoria and right throughout country NSW, country Australia there were huge sacrifices made by communities. We took out the cream of our youth at the time and during this period there are some very significant commemorative events that are taking place.

If we’ve got a bit of time I can tell you about four or five in NSW which will give you a bit of a flavour of the wide variety of programmes.

The Rydalmere East Public School are doing a production of ‘Do Not Forget Australia’, a theatrical production for school students; Lithgow are restoring the public school gates; Nambuca Valley they are doing commemorative event including the reproduction of a booklet entitled ‘The Story of Anzac; in Illawarra they are holding commemorative services and a street parade. So there are just some fantastic local commemorative programmes taking on and my very strong view and that of the Prime Minister is that we want everyone to be a part of this commemorative period.

And particularly for our young people too, to understand the service and sacrifice.

DAVE SULLIVAN: Inaudible.

MINISTER: I want to make sure that at the end of this commemorative period that the next generation of young Australians understand their sacrifice.  They are going to have the responsibility for looking after our men and women, particularly those who have recently returned.

In fact there have been some 72 000 young men and women that have served this nation overseas since 1999. Which is about 12 000 more than served in the Vietnam War. So we need to put in to perspective the challenges this nation over the next 50 years is going to face to look after these men and women, and just importantly their families.

I want the next generation of children to understand the when, the where and the why.

When we fought, where we fought, but just as important, why we fought. There are 102 000 names etched in to the walls of the Australian War Memorial of people who fought for our freedom and they’ve paid for it in their own blood and we should never ever forget that.

DAVE SULLIVAN: No, that’s so very, very true and the fact that this is going to local councils, they’re going to be able repair or refurbish areas or sites, everything down to flags and artworks. To make it last longer and be better for generations to come.

MINISTER: Well it’s not just councils. There are a wide variety of community groups that have got together, this is why I am so excited about the programme, they have come together to put on these events so it’s really more grassroots than the councils. Some of the councils are involved which is terrific but it really is down to the grassroots.

And it is such an important program, David, that we put another $3.75m in this Budget because we have been overwhelmed with the applications, nearly 1700 Australia-wide so that’ll give you a flavour of just how many people have taken this up with huge enthusiasm.

And we are working our way through those 1700 applications…

DAVE SULLIVAN:  … That’d be a job and a half…

MINISTER: … it is. No you can’t get a better job than to be putting local commemorative events on.

DAVE SULLIVAN:  It is a nice story to hear, because many say that it’s the time that Australia became a nation, we grew up as a nation I suppose you could say. And I know that it is not glorifying war in any shape or form, we are simply remembering those that who gave their all to make us free today.

MINISTER: In my view it is the most important period in this nation’s history, it gives us the opportunity to remember that service and sacrifice and there was not one Australian community that was not touched by it. We saw brothers, fathers and uncles from same families who all died, and it put enormous pressure particularly on the women who stayed at home to keep the nation going.

And there is just so much involved in this story that is why this period is so important.

DAVE SULLIVAN:  Particularly in the country areas. They had a small population to start with.

Thank you for your time this morning Senator.

MINISTER: Thanks, Dave.

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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