Friday, April 25 2014

Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC
Special Minister of State


Distinguished guests, fellow Australians, ladies and gentlemen

Silent and effortless stands this memorial, evocative and stark against all that Mother Nature can throw at it.

It marks time here, eerily, in the place where men once fought.

Here young men came to conquer, under orders to take from the enemy something the enemy themselves were ordered to keep and defend at all costs.

The strategic height of this peninsula beckoned from the moment the first Australians and New Zealanders set foot on the beach below us.

Over the last 99 years, slowly, this place has changed.

Contrast this with the haste of men who, over centuries, have sought to conquer this piece of high ground betwixt east and west.

Here and along this ridge line in 1915 Australians and Kiwis and Turks battled, just metres from one another, in a desperate bid to take and hold this high ground.

Tenacious. Brave. Courageous. Determined.

These words describe the character of the Anzacs who landed on 25 April 1915, who fought on this peninsula for eight long months, through the summer heat and the winter cold.

These are all words which the Anzacs, if here today, would use to describe their worthy opponents.

But they are words which we, the custodians of the Anzac legacy, use to describe our own.

These young men were – after all – the best of a generation sent to defend their nation’s values, freedoms, and ideals albeit far away from the comparable comfort of home and family.

The capture of Lone Pine, which cost 2,000 Australian casualties, was part of the great August offensive that ultimately came to nothing when the dust and smoke finally cleared.

The loss of a generation of Australian men in this battle and throughout the Gallipoli campaign changed the face of our nation, but no more so than in rural Australia.

Here multiple generations are buried beside each other in a foreign land so unimaginably different from their own place of birth.

Etched onto memorials across the length and breadth of our nation, their names are constant reminders of the magnitude of our loss.

So, today, as our nation gathers as one at memorials here and throughout our great country, we say thank you to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in this place 99 years ago.

We particularly remember the families, whose only compensation for the pain of loss was the knowledge that the sacrifices made by those they loved would give us the freedoms and the way of life we enjoy today.

While we remember those who served here, there were many who stayed at home to provide the resources for those who served.

Major Matthew Baird, a member of the 23rd Battalion AIF put it so succinctly, when he said:

Those who stayed at home had their part to do as well as those who went out to flight, and those who went out to fight were proud of what those who remained behind had done.

Of those who went out to fight during the Battle of Lone Pine, seven would be awarded the Victoria Cross ‘for valour’.

Outside my home city of Ballarat in country Victoria stands the largest living war memorial in Australia.

This Avenue of Honour stretches 22 kilometers west of Ballarat and contains 3,771 trees – one tree for each man from Ballarat and district who signed up to fight in the First World War.

Like Avenues of Honour around Australia, this memorial at Lone Pine is an eternal tribute to a time long passed and to men now at rest.

As our nation enters its most important commemorative period, no Australian now or forever, must ever forget that the freedoms we enjoy today were paid for in blood nearly 100 years ago.

In finishing, can I say to the young Australians and the young New Zealanders here today – the young Aussies, the young Kiwis – that it is you who will inherit the legacy of the Anzacs.

It is you who will teach your own children and grandchildren of the sacrifices that were made to defend the freedoms we all too often take for granted.

I know you will do this with all your strength, all your vigour and all your passion.

Lest We Forget.

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 (47 KB)