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Soldier On - Anzac Day Commemorative Address [via video]

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land and pay my respects to their elders, past and present, and in particular recognise all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who have served our nation in its Defence forces.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

This generation’s wars and operations have added significantly to the history of service and sacrifice we commemorate today. Across decades, and across continents and oceans, you have kept faith with the Anzac legacy that you inherited when you put on an Australian Defence Force uniform. And, importantly, you have had non-uniform colleagues serving beside you, providing critical support.

This Anzac Day service is conducted in the same vein and in a similar format to the first service held just over 100 years ago. The order of service is rich in its symbolism, reaches deep into our emotions and reminds all who hear of the price that has been paid by our fellow Australians.

Anzac Day is also a day for all Australians to say a loud and proud ‘thank you’ to our servicemen and women. No one who has marched down a major street in a capital city or small rural town can forget the applause and shouts of ‘well done’ and ‘thank you’.

This is a genuine response to service – your service – that stands outside any thoughts of the appropriateness or not of a particular operation.

For you, our veterans, Anzac Day also serves another purpose. It is an occasion to gather with current and former colleagues to reminisce.

It is also, very importantly these days, an opportunity to conduct a health check. Such an act adds enormous value to the sense of family that so many veterans experience.

Of course, under current circumstances, a physical gathering is not possible this year. This makes reaching out to colleagues by other means all the more important.

Anzac Day is also a difficult day for many. For comrades in arms, for families and friends, it is a day on which the memory of sacrifice is strong and poignant. I can assure you that Australia is at your side on Anzac Day in particular.

Our recent veterans are now part of the Anzac legacy that has played such a significant role in defining Australia’s values and character.

An anonymous comment from a member of the 10th Force Support Battalion appeared on my Facebook page recently in response to a post I had made about the Anzac legacy. The comment asked a simple question, ‘And what does Anzac Day mean to you?’ For me, it evokes memories of loss and re-awakens hidden emotions. But it is also a day to reflect on the strengths and qualities of our servicemen and women. 

I see the Anzac legacy in these terms:

  • as a call to us to thank those earlier generations for their sacrifice
  • as a spur to energise us in looking after our more recent veterans
  • and to inform us of what those earlier generations would expect of us today as we face our own generational test.

I take comfort on Anzac Day that members of the ADF continue to serve in this vein and that the Australian public is supportive of our people in uniform. I also take heart from the knowledge that our servicemen and women do not want to let down this legacy.

While I have reflected on the more recent service of members of the ADF, we should be mindful this Anzac Day that we are acknowledging the 75th anniversary of the cessation of World War 2.

Watching the veterans of that war march in massed formations down George Street in Sydney is one of my lasting memories of Anzac Day. I thank all those who served and the families who supported them for what they gave for our country and our freedoms. We are in debt to them.

While reflecting on those marches and traditional Anzac Day gatherings, I am reminded of things that are quintessentially Australian.

During the First World War, a number of songs contained the word cooee. These songs served as a strong reminder to the troops of their beloved homeland.

I’m not sure how well ‘cooee’ translates via video, but the importance of the act itself — of calling out to a mate; of being there for someone else — resonates very strongly in the current environment.

To all veterans — past and present — our nation says ‘thank you for your service’.

Lest we forget.