Anzac Day 2005: National Ceremony commemorative address
Your Excellencies the Governor General and Mrs Jeffery. The Acting Prime Minister of Australia, the Honourable John Anderson. My Diplomatic Colleagues. Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls.
Anzac Day is the day when the people of Australia and New Zealand remember their dead, fallen in war.
It’s the anniversary of the day in 1915 when soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed on the beaches of Gallipoli.
In just a few hours time, the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand will be taking part in the Dawn Service at Anzac Cove, together with veterans and thousands of young New Zealanders and Australians, to commemorate that day 90 years ago when the Anzac legend was born.
As we are gathered in this beautiful setting, with Australia’s magnificent War Memorial looking down on us, we know that in even the smallest towns around New Zealand and Australia people are gathering at their own war memorials to remember their dead – around memorials which often bear a list of names so pathetically disproportionate to the size of those communities.
We can but try to imagine the scene at Gallipoli on this day 90 years ago. Australia ’s young soldiers went ashore first. Late in the morning the New Zealanders landed to support their Australian comrades. The Australians had already suffered terrible casualties.
The New Zealand soldiers quickly joined the desperate battle to capture and defend the heights around Anzac Cove. Chaos was everywhere, soldiers separated from their units, units separated from their commanders.
As one young New Zealand soldier described the scene
“Upturned boats, gear of all description, and dead men littering the beach - the noise - one continuous roar of rifle and shellfire mingled with the cries of the wounded and dying”
Like many operations of the First World War, the Gallipoli operation, however brilliant in conception, was inadequately planned and inefficiently directed. It became the graveyard for the bodies of thousands of our best, our irreplaceable men.
We commemorate today, therefore, no military triumph - but the more humbling triumph of human valour. The courage and endurance of those who did their duty at Gallipoli remains a vivid memory and a source of pride to every Australian and New Zealander.
Today, we remember too, the sacrifices made at Gallipoli by British, French and Indian troops. We pay tribute as well to the young Turks who suffered appalling losses so bravely defending their homeland.
It was Kemal Ataturk commanding the Turkish Forces who drove out the allied Forces from Gallipoli in December 1915. And it was Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, whose words of comfort to the grieving parents of our fallen soldiers, remind us of the power and grace of reconciliation. His words are engraved on the Ataturk memorials here in Canberra and in Wellington:
“You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and at peace. After having lost their lives on this land, they become our sons too.”
Gallipoli was the battle which broke our hearts. It was also the battle which caused us to think about who we were. Before Gallipoli we were colonials. At Gallipoli, we measured ourselves alongside - and against - the best, and found no cause for shame.
Because of Gallipoli so it is said, Australia and New Zealand became nations. The 25th of April 1915 will forever be a part of what it means to be a New Zealander or an Australian. For each of us, Anzac is part of our national identity.
Although Anzac Day started as a day of remembrance for those who fought and died in the First World War, it has come, with the passing of time, to be a commemoration of the dead of our two countries – our sons and daughters - who have fallen in all wars, on land or sea or in the air.
They lie, these Australians and New Zealanders, not only at Gallipoli, but at the Western Front, the Somme, Greece and Crete, in the North African desert, Italy, Burma, Malaysia, the Pacific Islands, Korea, and Vietnam.
The graves of many are unknown, on mountain tops and jungles, and beneath the sea. They lie in unknown places on every continent and in every ocean. But they are not forgotten.
The Anzac spirit, which came into being at Gallipoli, remains a real and powerful force. Australians and New Zealanders share the knowledge that in times of crisis, we have acted together to defend freedom, our shared values and our common interests.
And we stand ready to do so again.
The spirit of Anzac is based on the values that New Zealand and Australia have held in common in the past, and hold dear today. These include mateship, courage, equality, self sacrifice and loyalty.
Today, as well as commemorating the New Zealanders and Australians who lost their lives in all wars, we also think about our fellow countrymen and women who right now are serving us so proudly all around the world.
In the Solomon Islands, we are working together with our regional partners in the Pacific to bring security and hope back into lives of Solomon Islanders.
In both Afghanistan and Iraq, the New Zealand and Australian Defence Forces have played and continue to play a role in helping these countries towards a future free from repression and the scourge of terrorism.
Our two Defence Forces also play their part in humanitarian relief and reconstruction when communities in our Asia Pacific region are struck by natural disasters.
The tragic deaths of two young Australians in the Solomon Islands, and of the nine Australian servicemen and women on Nias Island a few weeks ago remind us that even in peacetime, service to others sometimes comes at an awful cost.
Our thoughts are with their families and loved ones today.
The close ties that bind Australia and New Zealand of course go beyond our shared pride in our past military sacrifices and our shared values.
The enduring partnership between our countries reflects as well, family, business, cultural, and sporting ties. We are the best of friends and the closest of neighbours, ready to help each other out, to share a burden and to work together.
As two sovereign countries, of course we sometimes have our differences. But most of the time we hardly think twice about the naturalness of our bonds. When the chips are down, Aussies and Kiwis are best mates.
Ahead of me, at the far end of Anzac Parade, the New Zealand Memorial symbolises the strength of the Anzac relationship.
The two bronze arches represent the handles of a traditional Maori kete, or flax basket.
On the New Zealand side of the basket is buried soil from Chunuk Bair, and on the Australian side, soil from Lone Pine. Within the symbolic basket lie our shared histories, memories, and values, our common endeavours in peace and in war, and our hopes for the future. The Maori proverb inscribed on the memorial means “Two of us, each at the handle of the basket, helping to share the load”.
It is the duty of all of us to ensure that those who lost their lives in service to our countries did not do so in vain.
And to remind ourselves of the inscription seen on war memorials around the world:
“When you go home, tell them of us and say,
for your tomorrow, we gave our today.”
We all take lessons from the wars in which we have fought - and there are no lessons which less deserve to be forgotten.
On Anzac Day, the past and all its meaning is once again brought home to us.