Anzac Day 2013: National Ceremony commemorative address

5 mins read
The Hon. Dr Brendan Nelson AO

Australians all let us rejoice, for we are young and free.

With a sense of awkward humility, abiding reverence and overwhelming pride – we pause on Anzac Day here at the Australian War Memorial, cenotaphs and places of commemoration.

We do so as free and confident heirs to a legacy born of idealism, forged in self-sacrifice and passed now to our generation. We gather in renewed commitment to one another, our nation and the ideals of mankind.

We strive – like those whom we honour, in whatever adversity we face, to be sustained by belief in who we are and what we have been given.

On this day almost 100 years ago, courageous Australians and New Zealanders gave us that first Anzac Day, forging in bloody sacrifice the bond within which our two nations now live.

Emerging from the cataclysm that it was, they gave our young nation a sense of its identity and place in the world, not by what they would do - but how they would do it.

Charles Bean’s account of a digger arriving at the front trench before the Australian assault on Lone Pine, says it all.

‘Jim here?’ he asked.
A voice in the fire step answered, ‘Right here Bill’.
‘Do you chaps mind movin’ up a piece?’ asked the first voice.
‘Him and me are mates - and we’re goin’ over together’

Private I.D. Hart was 30 years old when he was killed on the 27th of November, 1916. Buried at the Guards Cemetery near Arras, his distraught mother penned his epitaph at her kitchen table for the grave she would never see.


Private T.R. Webb of the 60th Battalion was 26 when he was killed on the 19th of July 1916. His father wrote the words for his headstone in the Bethleem East Cemetery.


Each of them, like each of us had only one life, only one chance to use life in a selfless way for others and our nation.

They chose us.

From the safe distance of our comfortable twenty first century lives, it is tempting - easy, to settle for the broad brushstrokes of history in neglectful ignorance of individual sacrifices made in our name.

The names of more than 102,000 men and women are here on the Roll of Honour. Almost all lie in distant lands from the Boer War, two world wars and Korea, through to Vietnam, Afghanistan and numerous other conflicts and operations.

They went in our uniform, under our flag in our name. But their lives were finally given up in support of one another.

The sacrifice of each one of them reminds us there are some truths by which we live that are worth fighting to defend.

Each one lies as a silent witness to the future they have given us.

We honour them best by the way we live our lives and shape our nation.

No group of Australians has given more, nor worked harder to shape our values and beliefs, the way we relate to one another and see our place in the world than those who have worn and now wear – in war and in peace, the uniform of the Royal Australian Navy, Army and Royal Australian Airforce.

In this lies much that is precious - our past and our future.

To young Australians in search of belonging, meaning, purpose and values for the world you want rather than the one you think you’re going to get, your journey leads here. Look to those values enshrined in the fifteen stained-glass windows in the Hall of Memory overlooking the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier:

Resource Candour Devotion Curiosity Independence
Comradeship Ancestry Patriotism Chivalry Loyalty
Coolness Control Endurance Audacity Decision

Whether Australian by birth or by choice, to feel a connection with the Unknown Soldier, the names on these walls and the almost 2 million who have worn the uniform of our three services over a century – is to be fully Australian.

Let us recommit ourselves to an Australia that enshrines principle above position and values before value. Our Australia, like theirs and especially that of the magnificent generation of the Second World War now leaving us, should be one in which our responsibilities to one another, our nation and its future, transcend and define our rights.

We will be at our best in facing different, threatening horizons, if we triumph as they did – over fear.

Let us inspire the next generation to embrace the world as confident, compassionate people, imbued with the Anzac spiritual legacy of endurance, courage and a selfless determination to help one another.

The great paradox is that the most fragile yet powerful of human emotions is – hope.

It is the hope of a better future, of helping and of being helped in shaping that future as individuals and as a people. It is this legacy which we honour today - of men and women reaching out to help one another, which most inspires and strengthens hope.

After the bloodbath that was Fromelles, Sergeant Simon Fraser spent three backbreaking days bringing in the wounded from No Man’s Land.

Rising from the fog to penetrate his exhaustion, a lone voice pleaded, “Don’t forget me cobber”.

He didn’t.

We won’t.

We never will.

For we are young, and we are free.

Lest we forget.

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