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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


23 April 2018

Darren Chester at the Sir John Monash Centre

Darren Chester, Minister for Veterans' Affairs, interviewed at the Sir John Monash Centre in France.

INTERVIEWER: Minister, what do you think of the centre now that you’ve come here and had a look?

DARREN CHESTER: My first impressions are this will become the centrepiece of the Australian Remembrance Trail. The Sir John Monash Centre really does tell the story in the soldiers’ own voices of the great struggle here on the Western Front. I think it’s a remarkable centre; I think Australians should be very proud of the way this story is now being told on the international stage.

INTERVIEWER: Every Anzac Day is special, but this one here is going to have pretty huge significance, and there are going to be lots of crowds. Are you feeling confident that we can pull it off, basically?

DARREN CHESTER: I’m very confident that we’ll pull off a terrific commemoration here for the Centenary of Anzac at Villers-Bretonneux and right around the Western Front. The Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs has been heavily engaged now for months in preparation for this. We’re looking forward to a full commemorative activity here at the Sir John Monash Centre and also right around the Western Front and, of course, back home in Australia with many events right from the Australian War Memorial to small country towns.

We simply encourage Australians to respect and gain a better understanding of our service men and women and the struggles of previous generations but also recognise those who are serving today and the younger veterans who walk amongst us in our community. It is about increasing our respect and understanding of the unique nature of service in the Australian Defence Force.

INTERVIEWER: For the people at home, who may not know the significance of this hill—VB—just explain to them, if that’s okay, the centenary of the battle.

DARREN CHESTER: Gallipoli will always play a very important part of the Australian story, but it’s important that we also tell the story of our greatest successes on the battlefields. Here on the Western Front, Australian soldiers really did change the course of history. So to be here at the Sir John Monash Centre and getting an appreciation in a very immersive, multimedia, interpretive way, it’s very different from any other museums. I’ve never seen the story of Australian soldiers told in such a way that sparks emotions amongst visitors. We’ll certainly encourage many Australians to come here and gain perhaps a better understanding of Australian soldiers at war on the Western Front.

INTERVIEWER: Minister, can I just ask you: Gallipoli almost got overrun with Australians, and I know that there is now this concentration on the Western Front because of the particular anniversary but is it also probably a good thing that Australia’s attention is turning to the Western Front rather than Gallipoli given the political situation in Turkey, given the crowds, given how things were going?

DARREN CHESTER: I think there’s an enormous appetite within Australia to understand our history and for battlefield tourism to perhaps gain an appreciation of how your family was directly involved or how your loved ones were involved in battles throughout history. It’s something that Australians are very interested in.

Now, obviously, Gallipoli has played a very important part in the Australian psyche for generations and will do so in the future. But there’s no question that having this new centre here—the Sir John Monash Centre—on the Western Front will encourage more Australians to perhaps gain a full understanding and appreciation of our role here in Europe. So, I don’t think it’s a question of either/or.

I think many people will still head to Anzac Cove, visit Gallipoli and appreciate those battles, but it’s equally important, or perhaps even more important, to understand how we perhaps changed the course of history with our successes on the battlefield here. It’s really forged links between Australians and the French people that mean we will never forget that service and that sacrifice. I’ve got to say the French people have been true to their word in that regard. You can see many examples around this community where the Australians are remembered, and it’s important that we at home also remember the Australian service men and women and what they’ve done for us over a number of years now.



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