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The Hon Darren Chester MP
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister for Defence Personnel
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC


4 July 2018

Speech – Centenary of the Battle of Hamel commemoration

Distinguished guest, ladies and gentlemen

Life is full of choices. And I thank you for choosing to be here today as we commemorate the service and sacrifice of those who fought in the battle of Hamel 100 years ago.

By any measure, this is sacred ground for the people of France and the young Australians who travelled from our distant shore to defend freedom.

But freedom came at an enormous cost.

While we gather at this magnificent memorial in the beautiful countryside, we can hardly imagine the brutality of the battles: the fear, the chaos and the horrendous loss of life which occurred here and across the Western Front.

As French Prime Minister Edouard Phillippe said at the opening of the Sir John Monash Centre just two months ago …

For many young Australians, this earth was their final safe place.

For many of them, this earth was the final confidante of a thought or a word intended for a loved one from the other side of the world.

Loved ones who would only learn the sad news several months later.

Ladies and gentlemen, the 93-minute Battle of Hamel commanded by General Sir John Monash was a turning point in the war and helped change the course of history.

To serve with such loyalty, courage and determination, the troops must have been filled with hope that their sacrifice would be worth it …

Hope, that the killing and maiming would stop …

Hope, that peace would eventually reign.

But they could never have hoped — indeed they could never have imagined, how their service would shape our two nations. The bonds forged on this sacred ground have grown into cultural, social and economic links that are made stronger by our shared history.

So what does it mean for us today?

As I said, life is full of choices.

The best way to honour the fallen is found in the choices we make today.

We could choose to forget them.

We could focus only on ourselves and our own problems.

We could choose to ignore the past and consign their deeds to the dust of history.

Or we can choose to honour and solemnly commemorate all of the fallen.

We can choose to respect all those who serve in uniform today and strive to keep us safe in dangerous times.

We can choose to show understanding and support their families.

And we can choose to learn from the battles and never forget the horrific lessons of war.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the choices you've made.

Thank you for choosing to be here to respect all those who served in the Great War. Carry the memory of this day with you forever, as you remember the fallen from the Battle of Hamel.

Lest we forget.

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