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100th Anniversary of the Darwin Cenotaph and Dedication of the Eternal Flame, Darwin, Northern Territory

[E&OE]

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to their elders, past and present, emerging leaders and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders gathered here today.

Good afternoon.

Linda and I are delighted to be back in Darwin and with you for this 100th anniversary ceremony of the Darwin Cenotaph and Dedication of the Eternal Flame.

For 100 years this Cenotaph, whether located outside Government House or at the Civic Centre gardens or here at Bicentennial Park, has been a place of remembrance for the people of Darwin and the Northern Territory. A place to commemorate the sacrifices of Territory servicemen and women who have served in conflicts in which Australia has been involved.

I’m informed the Darwin Cenotaph is a tough old nut – it has withstood cyclones, bombing raids and earth tremors over the course of 100 years. She is a symbol of strength and endurance – just two of many traits that characterise the names of those enshrined at this memorial site.

The people whose names appear here, and the names of people on other Australian war memorials, have also shown sacrifice, mateship and courage – words that describe the Anzac legacy.

Their contribution to the defence of our nation is profound.

In World War 1 … 52 Territorians made the supreme sacrifice. From my readings of the Northern Territory in 1914 there was no recruiting facility in north Australia, so all volunteers were required to make their own way to another capital city to enlist. Nothing would deter these young Territorians from joining the war effort.

In World War 2 … this very port, where Territorian service personnel sailed from to join the first Expeditionary Force decades earlier, was the place where 252 Allied service personnel and civilians lost their lives in February 1942 at the hands of the Imperial Japanese Navy. This site is where the guns of the 14th Anti-Aircraft Battery were positioned and fired the first shots in the defence of Darwin.

The enemy was at our doorstep. Darwin had been bombed, Broome strafed and midget subs were in Sydney Harbour. Australia was under threat; our future uncertain.

But Darwin stood firm. She then stepped up and supported the Allied War effort by providing a resupply point for the United States ahead of the outbreak of war in the Pacific. That support continues to this day through the US Marines rotation here in the Top End.

Darwin’s contribution to the war effort continued in Korea, Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam.

I’m informed that in the audience today are serving and retired 3RAR veterans, some of whom will participate in the laying of wreaths and books later in the ceremony. 3RAR fought alongside Canadian, American and New Zealand forces to repel the Chinese enemy force at the Battle of Kapyong in 1951 during the Korean War.

Today is the 70th anniversary of that battle. I acknowledge all members of 3RAR, past and present, and thank them for their service.

Modern wars and operations have added significantly to the history of service and sacrifice we commemorate today. Over the past three decades 100,000 Australian servicemen and women have served in war, conflict, peace-keeping and disaster-relief operations. Somalia, East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan are part of Australia’s continuing story of service and sacrifice.

On this 100th anniversary of the Darwin Cenotaph and Dedication of the Eternal Flame, I want to acknowledge and thank all Darwin and Northern Territory service personnel who have been integral to Australia’s war efforts and peace-keeping missions. And in thanking them for their service, I also acknowledge the tremendous support provided by their families.

In my National Anzac Day Address to be broadcast tomorrow, Linda and I acknowledge, recognise and honour the critical role played by the families of our servicemen and women. They, too, are part of the Anzac legacy and, as a nation, we thank them for their support and sacrifice.

For 100 years this Cenotaph has been a symbol of the service and sacrifice of Australian servicemen and women. May it continue to be so for many years to come.

Lest We Forget.

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