Anzac Day National Address, Australian War Memorial, Campbell, ACT
This is Ngunnawal Country.
Today we are all meeting together on this Ngunnawal Country.
We acknowledge and pay our respects to the Elders.
- Her Excellency Ms Caroline Kennedy, Ambassador of the United States
- His Excellency Mr Amir Maimon, Ambassador of Israel
- Members of the Diplomatic Corps
- The Honourable Tony Abbott AC, former Prime Minister
- General Angus Campbell AO DSC, Chief of the Defence Force
- Senior members of the Australian Defence Force
- Lieutenant General Kemal Yeni, Commander Aegean Army Türkiye
- The Honourable Kim Beazley AC, Chairman of the Council of the Australian War Memorial
- Staff and volunteers of the Australian War Memorial
- Staff and members of the Returned & Services League of Australia
- Veterans, service men and women and their families.
It is always an honour and a privilege to participate in one of our nation’s most solemn and important ceremonies.
On Anzac Day we come together to honour those who have served, those who continue to serve and the families that support them.
We reflect on their collective sacrifices and what their service has meant to our nation.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the end of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War.
Today, I particularly want to acknowledge the service of the more than 60,000 Australians who served in that conflict, the 523 men who gave their lives in the service of our nation, the impact of that service and loss on their loved ones, and the physical and mental trauma many carried and many still carry.
There is a second anniversary being marked today. Earlier, I had the great privilege of leading the contingent marching to mark the 30th anniversary of Australia’s commitment in Somalia. We were marching for each other and in memory of Lance Corporal Shannon McAliney. The Vietnam and Somalia operations were different in scale, duration and intensity but were very strongly linked.
They are linked because it was Vietnam veterans who taught the Somalia generation of servicemen and women our military skills and what it means to wear your country’s uniform. In my own experience, one of my small arms instructors at Duntroon was WO2 Keith Payne VC. In the first platoon I commanded after graduation, my platoon sergeant and section commanders were all veterans of the Vietnam War. Like many others at that time, I was fortunate to be schooled by those with deep military and combat experience.
Each generation learns from those who have served before. Just as the Vietnam generation learnt from those who had served in the Second World War, Korea and on the Malay Peninsula.
We are also linked by the shared experience of serving together, perhaps that emotion we refer to as ‘mateship’. Marching with your mates is one of the most satisfying of life’s experiences.
The mix of feelings I have today would be common to all veterans: the pleasure of seeing old friends and colleagues, pride in the job undertaken for Australia in difficult circumstances, and in the shared and private moments of reflection on our service and of those no longer with us.
And there is an intangible link. Australian servicemen and women are the custodians of a legacy that began more than 100 years ago. Regardless of when and where service occurred, whether it was you who wore the uniform or a loved one, or if you simply acknowledge what the service of others has meant to our country — all Australians own and are part of the same legacy: the Anzac legacy.
Indeed, when talking with many of my soldiers before we deployed and asking them what they were most concerned about, they said it wasn't about them; it was about whether they would be good enough to uphold the legacy that had been passed to them.
Anzac Day brings that legacy into focus.
The effect of that legacy goes beyond military service. It is apparent in who we are and who we aspire to be as Australians.
We see the characteristics we ascribe to the Anzac legacy – mateship, sacrifice, courage and endurance — expressed across our community.
As a nation, we’ve seen examples of this legacy in the way we have responded to cyclones, flood, the pandemic, fire and drought.
And, today, I want to highlight a great Australian organisation that embodies that legacy – Legacy Australia. A great Australian organisation that this year celebrates 100 years of service to our country.
Legacy’s work is underpinned by the compassion, generosity and determination of generations of Australians fulfilling the promise made to a dying comrade in the trenches of the Western Front: ‘I’ll look after the missus and kids.’
It is a commitment that endures to this day as Legacy supports the families of our modern veterans.
We are a people who care.
We look after our mates and our neighbours.
That is the Anzac legacy that we are all part of and we all own.
In this, its centenary year, I encourage all Australians to continue supporting Legacy Australia.
We owe a great debt to those who have served our nation and to their families. We particularly note the service of Vietnam and Somalia veterans today, and their families, and thank them for their contribution to our nation.
I extend a heartfelt thank you to all veterans and current serving men and women of the Australian Defence Force.
Lest we forget.