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Legacy Week National Launch, Australian War Memorial, Canberra

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Good morning, all. It’s a great honour for Linda and me to be with you again this morning for another launch of Legacy Week.

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

As you can imagine, both my program and Linda’s program have been a bit topsy-turvy since about mid-March this year. In an appointment, about 90 per cent of our time is spent engaging with the Australian public. We’ve found that’s not really been possible. We’ve pretty much been confined to the Northern Territory, the ACT and New South Wales. It has been difficult to get around. Our life has been a virtual life, using every means possible to reach out to the Australian public.

One of the things we've been doing is speaking to representatives from many of the charitable and not-for-profit organisations, including their CEOs and Chairs, about how the pandemic and lockdown has affected their businesses. It has not been a surprise to hear that they are finding it difficult. It is very hard to raise funds in these situations. Many who depend on an annual cycle of giving are finding it difficult to make ends meet. They’ve been innovative, they’ve adapted and they’ve got on with the job. In fact, we’ve come away from those interactions over the last three or four months very impressed and very proud with the quality of the men and women who lead those organisations.

Legacy is no different in that respect. It has the same difficulties as the rest of the community. But there is a big difference. When I was thinking about today's launch, I thought about the six months from February to August 1915 when the Australian public was confronted with the shocking news of the losses back in Italy. I also thought about the losses in August 1915 at Lone Pine. You can imagine, as we have many times, the reverberation through the community.

We’ve had a difficult six months as well. Not the same as in terms of loss, although the losses have been tragic, but we’ve had a profoundly confronting experience for a modern society. What have we learnt from that? The one thing I’m pretty sure we have learnt is commitment to that sacrifice from 1915 to 1919. Of course, it was very evident at dawn on Anzac Day. When innovation replaced our traditional large gatherings for dawn services. Where people met in their driveways. I have seen lovely films of kids in driveways with screens set up on garage doors, leading their streets in an Anzac Day dawn service.

We went to Alice Springs about three weeks ago. Linda and I were privileged to meet Mr Syd Kinsman. Syd is 99. He fought at Tobruk, El Alamein and Syria. He was captured in Syria. He was imprisoned in northern Italy. He escaped with two mates and climbed over the Alps into Switzerland. He went down through Switzerland, across into southern France and then onto Marseilles. I don’t know if he ever turned himself into the Army officials, but the three of them managed to hitchhike, if that’s what you call it on a boat, on ships all the way back to Perth and Australia. They didn’t sign up again after that. They reckon they’d done enough.

So talk about commitment and being recognised. On Anzac Day, at dawn, when Syd and his family stood in their driveway, 500 cars in Alice Springs drove past in tribute. People recognise commitment. They've seen it. We did it on Anzac Day. They recognise it in our people and again, in Legacy, that’s what we are seeing. It is a commitment to a very strong memory of service in our country.

This Legacy Week is going to be different. It is going to be harder to raise the funds. But out there we’ve already got an example, living, right now, not even three or four months old, of Australians understanding sacrifice and commitment and, in turn, committing to that memory. That's what we'll build on this week. That’s what we’ll be calling on, evoking memories of what people did on Anzac Day morning. Why did you do that? And how did an experience from 100-odd years ago carry an organisation that asks us, begs us and wishes us to continue to remember that pledge that was made so many years ago.

Don't forget us. Don't forget our families. Don’t forget our kids. It goes on.

Now, regrettably, we, in our lifetime, haven’t seen the need for Legacy to die. It could well have but it hasn't. More than 50,000 people depend on the work of stalwarts, of Legatees, and we thank them for what they do. Those Legatees are out there every week. I am sure the ladies who are with us today — Kaye Mongan, Kelly Keats, Denise Bird — are grateful that there’s been a commitment that has continued, and that men and women have seen that they have a duty to pay to those who served their country.

So, as Matt [Anderson, Director of the Australian War Memorial] has said, use your network and get out there. It’s a little badge but it has a huge impact on Australian society. This week is another week for us to show that we are going to honour a commitment no matter the circumstances, no matter the difficulties, to say thank you. To those who have served their families and to those who look after them.

I thank you for being here today, again. It is a very powerful reminder to the Australian community of how important Legacy is to the fabric of our country and what it really means to be Australian.

Thank you for your support and encouragement. Let’s have a very successful week. It’s a great honour to officially launch Legacy Week for 2020.