It is 96 years since Australian and New Zealand soldiers landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula, but our commemoration of that day grows stronger and more important every year.
April 25 1915 was the start of an eight month campaign which cost more than 8,000 gallant Australian lives, saw more than 2,000 wounded and forged the identity of a young nation which was officially just 14 years old.
Over the past 95 years our remembrance of ANZAC Day has changed and grown from a memorial service to a day of celebration of the fabulous qualities of the men who gave their lives.
Mateship, courage, a sense of duty to their country and an indomitable fighting spirit in appalling conditions are the qualities simply summarised in the word ANZAC.
Each year as more and more young people honour our fallen at dawn services and marches across the country, ANZAC Day cements its place as our true national day, our day of affirming our identity and our place in the world.
The original ANZACs are long departed but their legacy remains.
Many Victorians had relatives who fought at Gallipoli. My own mother was the only child of an ANZAC, who fought at Gallipoli and later died on the Western Front.
Others will be remembering family members and friends who died in later wars, just as we should all pause to remember the men and women currently defending the values we hold so dear in conflict zones such as Afghanistan, Iraq, East Timor and the Solomon Islands.
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Premier of Victoria Ted Baillieu pays tribute to the ANZACs in his address to the annual ANZAC lunch – 19 April 2011
Ladies and gentlemen please be upstanding and join me in a toast to the Queen and the people of Australia. Please be seated.
Can I acknowledge, first of all, all of those past and present in particular our indigenous communities, whose love and connection with this place and this land and this city and this state have made where we live such a special place, a place that we treasure. And to Aunty Joy Murphy, I join you in embracing the manna gum, the symbol of everything we share. Can I acknowledge, of course His Excellency the Governor of Victoria, Alex Chernov and welcome Alex as Governor to his first ANZAC Day lunch. Can I also acknowledge Premiers John Cain and John Brumby; my colleague, Minister for Veterans Affairs Hugh Delahunty; Ken Smith the Speaker; Tim Holding; Greg Barber; other Members of Parliament; the president of the RSL Victoria David McLachlan; many senior defence personnel who are here; many veterans; widows, the members of the consulate; and can I welcome in particular the Turkish Consul Aydin Nurhan who is here today; the Spirit of ANZAC Prize winners who we will be welcoming later, and welcome all of you to what is a special place in our culture and our history for a special event in our culture and our history. And we celebrate in that acknowledgement.
It was a long time ago. And though time flies, time settles on all of us too. And from time to time we remain, all of us, just a touch away from what was. My own parents were children then. My father was a few days from his twelfth birthday; my mother was just two months old. Her father gone away to where she knew not. On the other side of the world, it was a Sunday. It was around 4 am in the morning. The night before, the sunset over the Mediterranean was described by a young lieutenant as, quote, “glorious” and, quote, “a stage setting with a lovely red coloured orb disappearing between the purple hills and the dainty rose pink sky”. And around that time, the landing barges slipped their lines. And so, in the pre-dawn chill on the 25th of April 1915, it began. John Monash, then just a colonel, was as he boarded the barges, confident of victory. But he was also apprehensive in the face of what he anticipated would be, and I quote, “the greatest combined naval and military operation in history”. In time, it was anything but. In time it was an eight-month campaign of horrific proportions. Over 8,700 Diggers, 2,700 Kiwis, thousands of Allied troops and tens of thousands of Turkish soldiers perished. It was a campaign with pain, with suffering, with tragedies and with heroes, and ANZAC Day honours that moment.
What does a child make of ANZAC Day these days? What do children make of ANZAC Day? The first ANZACs were themselves many just children. Younger some than the Spirit of ANZAC prize winners we have with us today. Younger many than those who guard our streets and our buildings now. That children now have taken such a growing grip on ANZAC Day is a fitting, but perhaps sobering symmetry because to be a child in Australia is to share a charmed existence. We have a beautiful country, a cheerful democracy, generous economy, rolling opportunity, but above all and despite the daily trials, we have a landscape of abiding peace in our country. And our children are by and large free to be happy. They’re insulated from the horrors of war; they’re largely protected from the ravages and pressures of conflict.
Our children, Australia’s children, live without fear in their hearts or on their streets. Oppression and suffering are strangers to our children. Sadly, we cannot say the same for children in many other countries. Most Australians haven’t slept in the foxholes; most Australians haven’t faced the unthinkable; most haven’t ached with loss; most haven’t had their very existence threatened on a daily basis. But for those who haven’t, we are so deeply in awe of those who have. We are in awe of those who have served. We are in awe of those who have sacrificed. We are in awe of the families who have suffered in turn.
Our lives have been charmed by comparison, and we are deeply, deeply grateful. I’m 57 years old, but like many of us on ANZAC Day, I feel like a child: in awe of the adults, in awe of the bravery, we really are all the children of the ANZACs – they now forever the adults. It’s not the job of us children to embellish the stories of the adults to the adults; they are their stories. And I don’t wish to start today. All we, the children of the ANZACs, can do is listen, learn, respect, and honour. We have to make it clear that we got the message and that we will pass it on. No one is immune to the ricochets of war. My grandfather survived Gallipoli, but died later on the Western Front. My wife’s father served with distinction in Korea. The pain never disappears for families. The emotional stress lingers on, often through the generations. And children do feel the pain. It’s our duty every day to protect the families. It’s our duty to support the RSL in its role and Legacy in its role. It’s our duty to never forget, to never abandon. And it’s our duty to go over the top to support those who have served. It’s not a duty consigned to any one day or any one celebration, it’s a duty to be there every day, always, every time and I take that duty very seriously.
Many Australians have served in conflicts over the last 96 years since that first ANZAC landing. All of them shared the ANZAC biscuit. All of them have served this country with honour. Of course there are many young Australians who have confronted war, not only those who have served but those who are serving today, whether it’s in Afghanistan or in support in East Timor, the Solomons, or in other jurisdictions. But also we acknowledge those who have chosen Australia as their frontier of hope – new arrivals, new citizens who we welcome from the hotspots of the world: the African continent, the Middle East, the Baltic States, South East Asia, from all over the world. And may their children too flourish in this, the nursery of the ANZACs.
The first ANZACs were themselves children. They grew up quickly, too quickly. And we are in awe of the courage that can bring a man or woman to risk their lives, to depart into the unknown, to utter teary farewells to loved ones, in particular to children. What is that quality that can march a soul through such dizzying extremes? Many years ago, long before Australians found their feet on the beaches of Gallipoli, Richard Lovelace explained it sweetly to Lucasta in Going to the Wars,
And yet this inconstancy is such
As you too shall adore;
I could not love thee, dear, so much,
Loved I not honour – more.
Australians have served with distinction in so many theatres of war in every continent. Last week I had the honour of meeting three extraordinary veterans from the Tobruk campaign. Ron, Harry and Bob regaled me with their stories and this year we honour them, the 70th anniversary of the battle of Tobruk. And my generation in particular honours those who served in the Vietnam conflict. It’s our duty to honour the spirit of the ANZACs, but above all, to thank them: to thank all of those who’ve served this country in every war, and those who’ll continue to serve and to pay a special tribute to those service men and women who’ve sacrificed so much in the name of Australia.
This year, we do honour the 70th anniversary of the Tobruk campaign. In four years’ time we will honour the 100th anniversary of the landing of the ANZACs. That will be a special occasion and it will be an occasion marked, of course, by celebration. It will mark the sacrifice of the campaigns of the First World War, and it will be a time to reinforce the values that the ANZAC tradition has forged for us over a century. And these values have become an important part of the identity of both Australia and New Zealand and they have shaped the way we view both the past and future. And we look forward to celebrating and recognising the anniversary with a focus on a century of service, infrastructure, capital works, education, public awareness, commemorative services, international relations, cooperation and particularly there will be a focus on the engagement of families and children, and again, honouring those who served.
On ANZAC Day this year we will reaffirm our appreciation of all the men and women who served our country so well, and I look forward to being with you there. We will honour them all. Because it was honour that took the first ANZACs to the Mediterranean, so too a sense of adventure for many, and a genuine commitment to a fair go. They served with distinction and they served with pride. They endured in their innocence with a spirit of mischief, good humour and resilience, and with a quirky irreverence and a sense of mateship that turned heads wherever they were. In doing so, they carved a gentle and enduring legend. It’s a legend unfettered by distortion, unspoiled by excess, and may it ever be so. The legend has grown, and we the children, no matter how old we are, continue to embrace the heritage. Tomorrow’s children laughing in our parks and playgrounds will always be the children of the ANZACs, and we waltz Matilda still in their memory. Lest we forget.
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