Legacy Week launch

5 mins read
The Hon. Dr Brendan Nelson AO

The honourable Marise Payne, the Minister for Defence representing the Prime Minister, the honourable Amanda Rishworth representing the Leader of the Opposition. The honourable Dan Tehan our Minister for Veterans affairs, defence personnel and assisting the Prime Minister for the centenary of Anzac.  The honourable Chris Bourke the ACT Minister for Veterans and Seniors.  I know Mr Jeremey Hanson is coming who is the leader of the Leader of the Opposition in the ACT.  Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, Chief of the Australian Defence Force. Vice Admiral Ray Griggs the Vice Chief of the Australian Defence Force.  Vice Admiral Tim Barret, Chief of the Royal Australian Navy.  Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, Chief of the Australian Army.  Air Marshal Leo Davies Chief of the Royal Australian Airforce. Air Chief Marshal retired Sir Angus Houston, the Chairman of Anzac, and many many other things that are of importance to our nation. General Peter Leahy retired, Chairman of Solider On and many other things. The great Keith Payne, Victoria Cross recipient and the only reason that his wife Flo isn’t here is because she is recovering from quite serious illness. Lisa Kwok Ambassador for Legacy. Tony Ralph the Chairman of Legacy Australia and his Chief Executive Jenny Walker. Belinda Hutchinson Chairman of Thales Australia and her Chief Executive Chris Jenkins a remarkable company that’s given remarkable support not only to Legacy but indeed to the Australian War Memorial.

The Legatee’s that are here, the veterans that are here, the men and women who are serving, the families who love and support you, welcome to the Australian War Memorial.

I deliberately went through every one of those VIPs and there are many many other VIPs that are here this morning. The reason that I did so is because it says so much about the respect that this nation and the Australian community has for this remarkable organisation. Today is the 29th of August in 2016 and we have just commemorated the 100th anniversary of the battle of Pozieres. The official historian Charles Bean was witness to it all. 23,000 casualties in 6 weeks - 6,800 dead, 5 Victoria Crosses. Bean returned from the very front on the 31st of July 1916 and simply wrote in his diary “blacken men everywhere, torn in whole, dead for days.”

A mortally wounded Australian asked of Bean “will they remember me in Australia”?

On the 24th of August last week, we commemorated a burial that Bean had seen and recorded. It was at Moquet Farm, the burial of second lieutenant Lionel’ Leo’ Butler, Bean’s cousin. That night of the 24th of August he wrote in his diary, “…as we placed his coffin in the ground, 6 more or less close friends standing nearby, a labourer learning on his scythe and a French lady dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief, I could not help but feel if it was all worthwhile, whether there was anything in this war to justify such sacrifices.”

From the First World War emerged three great institutions: what is now the Returned and Services League of Australia and I recognise Peter Eveille who was here today from the ACT RSL. The Australian War Memorial conceived by Bean from Pozieres, that he was determined to build as the finest memorial and museum to these men of the Australian Imperial Force and the nurses. The other was the inspiration of Savage in 1923 inspired by Gellibrand and that is Legacy Australia which brings us all here today.

In 1948 Bean articulated the vision for the Memorial, vision differentiating from leadership from management in a civilian context, “Here is their spirit, in the heart of the land they loved, and here we guard the record, which they themselves made.”

At the launch of Legacy Week last year, as I sat in the audience as you are today, next to a widow from Afghanistan and her three children, I had the privilege – the privilege, to hear Lisa Kwok speak about her family’s journey and the support that she had received from Legacy and continues to do.

I then thought there is something that we at the Memorial need to do. I then commissioned Ben Quilty, who did that remarkable work after Afghanistan, of the men and women and the impact it had on them of serving our nation in our longest war. I commissioned him to paint the impact on the families. And Lisa’s is one of three portraits that he has done. Along with Elvi Wood who lost a husband and Elle Lou Diddams who lost her father. They will shortly hang proudly here. 

The paradox of the Australia War Memorial to which we come today, is that it is not about war.

It’s about love and friendship. Love for friends, love between friends; love of family; love of our country and honouring men and women who devote and who have devoted their lives to not themselves, but to us , and their last moments to one another.

And families who love and support them and have given so much.

This place is many things, it reminds us of the truths by which we live, and are worth fighting to defend. It gives us a deeper understanding of what it means to be an Australia, but there is one legacy in particular of this institution conceived and driven by Charles Bean and that is -  a life of value is one ultimately spent in the service of other human beings, irrespective of the cost to ourselves, and it is Legacy that in particular gives effect to that legacy not only of responsibility of those men and women who have served, but also the rest of us who owe them and those for whom you care such an immense debt.


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