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Queen's Birthday Parade, RMC Duntroon


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.

It is 49 years since I first stood where you stand today.

A lot has changed in that time. 

Much though has remained the same.

Then, as now, Australia was in the process of withdrawing from a long-lasting conflict.

We were considering our place in the world.

At home, we were grappling with the nation and society we both were and aspired to be.

Here at the Royal Military College our nation’s next generation of military leaders had the
opportunity to learn from instructors whose experiences had been forged in combat.

Each of these is true today.

So too is the essential goodness of our people – our national character and the values that we share.

In considering my remarks for today, I searched the deep recesses of my memory for what the
Reviewing Officer told me and my classmates in 1972.

I’m sorry to say that I drew a blank.

Rather than taking inspiration from my words and on Her Majesty’s official birthday, I would ask that
you reflect then on the Oath or Affirmation that you all swore or promised:

That you would, 'well and truly serve Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Second, Her Heirs and Successors according to law …'

And that you would, 'Resist her enemies, and faithfully discharge your duty according to law.'

The Oath or Affirmation is as relevant today as it was when I swore it. When the generations that
came before me swore it.

It does not require a great deal of interpretation. Indeed, its strength lies in its simplicity.

In serving our Monarch – Our Queen – we serve Australia.

Its values. Its people.

What are they and who are we?

In the current landscape there is a lot of noise and, seemingly, ambiguity or uncertainty.

I would contend that it need not be abstract or difficult: we are a good people, a strong people and a
caring people.

That is no blind optimism. It is an observation underpinned by the empirical evidence – Linda and I
see examples of it day-in-day-out as we spend time in communities across Australia.

We witness people who are selfless, who look after those around them and who are strong –
determined to overcome any challenge they face and to create a better future.

That is who you are and that is who you serve.

In recent years I’ve been asked to reflect on the Anzac legacy and define its relevance to Australians
today. I’ve framed it thus:

  • Given a job to do, we will try our bloody hardest to get it done.
  • We’ll do it in a way that will make you proud.
  • And in doing it we’ll look after our mates – during and after.

Again, that is the Australia that you serve.

You are inheriting and becoming custodians of the Anzac legacy. You will honour it and you will build
on it.

And doing so is a responsibility, privilege, and a joy.

Serving in the Australian Army was the greatest privilege of my lifetime.

It afforded me opportunities that I could never have dreamt of, the most important being to lead
Australian soldiers.

Take pride in wearing that uniform.

Take pride in serving your Monarch and in serving Australia.