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Speeches

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

SPEECH

11 November 2018

Speech — Remembrance Day 2018

Ladies and Gentlemen

To those serving us in uniform and to those who have served their nations in the past:

May I offer a special welcome. Thank you for your service. And thank you to your families for supporting your service.

Behind me are the names of nearly 11,000 Australians who died in France in the Great War and have no known grave.

When we read these names and thousands more on graves in cemeteries here in France and the honour rolls and memorials in town centre's and country halls back at home in Australia — we keep our promise.

It's the promise to never forget the service and sacrifice of 416,000 Australians who enlisted and more than 60,000 who never made it home to the country they loved… and the country that loved them in return.

But don't just see the names — think of the stories behind them.

They gave up their peaceful lives on the farms, the towns and in the cities of a young nation — to travel 17,000 kilometers to the other side of the world and fight in the most destructive war the modern world had seen.

They left behind wives, children, girlfriends, mums, dads, aunties and uncles and their best mates.

Their loss cannot be quantified. But newspapers of the day revealed the heartbreak.

Maude O'Loughlin published an 'In Memoriam' notice in The Age newspaper on 28 February 1918. It marked the first anniversary of the death of her eldest son Captain Henry O'Loughlin who was killed at Bapaume.

Her poem, written in Henry's honour, is a window into the grief shared by so many mothers across the nation and the world.

There came a shock, an awful pain,
And the world has never seemed the same,
To have, to love and then to part
Is the saddest story of the human heart.
Did he whisper any name at the last,
Or breathe out a parting prayer?
Where did they bury my darling one,
Does anyone know or care?

How much I loved you God alone could see;
Your death came such a blow to me.
While you are sleeping my love is nigh;
If any miss you, dear Harry, it is I.

As we remember, we can commit ourselves to respecting their service in all that we do today.

We honour the fallen of the Great War by the way we choose to live in 2018.

It was Charles Bean, official war correspondent to the Australian Imperial Forces who wrote at the end of the Great War:

"We are free to be happy again. 60,000 Australians bought us this happiness with their lives."

But Bean also wrote that the fallen had given their lives "cheerfully, grandly, knowing the cause"

He said:

"Only by one means can we work out our thanks to them — by continuing the task which they were forced to drop when the bullet took them and devoting our lives to make this country the happy, great and generous land whose future with their death, they gave into our hands."

There is no place on the planet more soaked in the sacrifice of Australian soldiers than here on the Western Front, and their actions defined a modern Australia.

We owe them more than just a debt of gratitude — we owe them our determination, resilience, courage and combined humanity to protect their legacy and keep building our great nation.

We must prove by our actions every day — that they did not die in vain.

As Prime Minister Billy Hughes said at the time:

"Of their deeds it is not necessary for me to speak.

"Of their valour, endurance and resource at Gallipoli, Pozieres, Baupaume and other famous fields, men still speak with awe.

And Billy Hughes put our soldiers' sacrifice into perspective when he added:

"Our heritage, our free institutions of government — all that we hold dear — are handed back into our keeping, stained with the blood of sacrifice.

"Surely not only we, their fellow citizens, but Australians throughout the ages, will treasure forever the memories of those glorious men to whom the Commonwealth owes so much, and will guard with resolute determination the privileges for which they fought and suffered."

Ladies and gentlemen

Today we face a new threat — the threat of terrorism within our own nation.

The bravery of those named on the walls behind me…

And those men and women who serve in our uniform throughout the world today…

Stands in contrast to the cowards who seek to attack innocent citizens on the streets of our cities.

It is the challenge of our times and we must stand united.

United in defence of our hard fought freedoms and our enduring national values of respect for human life, tolerance, equality and a fair go for all.

On this day, as we gather to mark the centenary of the Armistice that ended the fighting of the Great War, we have the opportunity in our moments of quiet reflection, to help set our nation's course for the next 100 years.

Within us all, there is the capacity to serve — to help make a difference to our own community and our nation.

As we remember the fallen today — as we respect their sacrifice and honor their service — we can commit ourselves to that same spirit.

For a century, we have kept our promise and we have remembered them.

Lest we forget.

 

Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling provides support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Free and confidential help is available 24/7. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 8 8241 4546) or visit www.OpenArms.gov.au