Welcome, For Every Drop Shed in Anguish Dedication Ceremony

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Welcome given by Mr Matt Anderson PSM, Director, Australian War Memorial at the For Every Drop Shed in Anguish Dedication Ceremony on 22 February 2024.

Their Excellencies, the Governor General David and Mrs Linda Hurley

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Assistant Minister for Defence, Matt Thistlethwaite

Shadow Minister for Veterans Affairs Barnaby Joyce and the Former Minister for Veterans Affairs Darren Chester

The Chief of the Defence Force, General Angus Campbell,

The Vice Chief of the Defence Force Vice Admiral David Johnson,

The Chief of Army, LTGEN Simon Stuart and other senior members of the ADF,

The Chair and Commissioners of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide

Secretary of Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Alison Frame and former Secretary Liz Cosson

Members of Council – Chairman, The Hon Kim Beazley, Rhondda Vanzella, former National President of Australian War Widows and Glenn Keys

And Aunty Dr Caroline Hughes, thank you for your beautiful welcome.

To the remarkable – indeed heroic - members of the Stakeholder Committee, and to all those who have been affected by their service, or the service of a loved one.

You are why we are here.

And we pause to remember those who are no longer with us.

Those of you who have served.

Those of you who are still serving, and the families who love and support you.

Because when a sailor, soldier or aviator enlists, and ticks the box offering unrestricted service, they also, often unknowingly, conscript their families. The families in all their forms; husbands and wives, partners, brothers, sisters, mums and dads and blended families – even grandparents, who so often have to step up or step in to support those who have and who are serving.

Please know this is where you belong, and it his hoped here, at the Australian War Memorial, you will find, in our soon to be expanded galleries and as of today here in the gardens, the recognition and the meaning you so richly deserve.  

My only responsibility here today is to acknowledge the Stakeholder Committee that has led to this ground-breaking installation.

They are listed on the back of your program, however, they are worthy of special recognition. That’s why we’ve dispensed with any seating protocols for today and parked them all in the front row.

I’d ask you to think for a moment about their brief – to commission a sculpture that would provide a welcoming and meaningful space at the Memorial for those who have experienced or witnessed the trauma that can result from service, and for Memorial visitors to reflect on this experience.

The ONLY way we could do that was to harness their lived experience.

It has been painful, potentially cathartic, but demonstrably worth it!

I must start with the Chair of the Committee and my colleague, veteran and retired MAJGEN Brian Dawson. Thank you Brian for leading the Committee at a pace and in a direction comfortable to all.

I don’t play favourites here – so this next roll call is alphabetical!

Dr Karen Bird, mother of Jesse Bird, Australian Army veteran who died by suicide; we will hear from Karen this morning.

Kate Bird, sister of Jesse Bird;

Connie Boglis OAM, counsellor, author and mental health advocate, former partner of Jesse Bird;

Gwen Cherne, currently on leave from her duties as Veteran Family Advocate Commissioner, Department of Veterans' Affairs, widow of Peter Cafe, Australian Army veteran who died by suicide;

Amy Cooper, CEO, Soldier On;

Ben Farinazzo, veteran, dual gold medallist, Invictus Games, ambassador and advocate, mental health; who will also speak shortly;

Lieutenant General Natasha Fox AO CSC, Chief of Personnel, Australian Defence Force;

Pennie Looker, Australian Army veteran and PTSD sufferer;

Pat McCabe OAM, President, The Australian Federation of Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Ex-Servicemen & Women Ltd;

Leonie Nowland, First Assistant Secretary, Open Arms, Department of Veterans' Affairs;

Laura Webster, Head of Art, AWM and her remarkable staff, and I’d like to sneak in a mention to the Memorial’s building services team and our events staff.

And to Alex Seton for his dedication and sensitivity in realising this commission that is both contemporary and I believe will prove truly timeless.

The Australian War Memorial was conceived by Charles Bean as a place where families could grieve and mourn loved ones buried on foreign shores. It would also be a place where all Australians could come to understand what these men and women – and their families – had endured, and what they had done for us.

This sculpture invites all Australians to contemplate what the men and women of the ADF – and their families – have and in many cases still endure, and what has been asked of them in the training for and conduct of the defence of our freedoms and our values.

It has been said that when some patients look at a scar, they are most often reminded of the wounding. When a Doctor looks at the same scar, they see the signs of a body healing.

May this remarkable sculpture and its perfect imperfections remind us that not all scars are visible, and that, over time, a scar can, like these marble droplets of blood, sweat and tears, come to represent resilience, strength, hope and healing.

Now my staff will be mortified, but I have spotted a typo in the program. It states this is a Dedication ceremony. It’s not. It’s a rededication ceremony. When Lord Gowrie VC opened the Memorial on Armistice Day 1941, he said that when people leave here, they should utter ‘Never Again. Never again.’

For those of us in positions of leadership – and I thank each of you for being here and for owning this – we must rededicate ourselves to addressing the causes of every drop shed in anguish, both seen and unseen, and promise ‘never again. Never again.’  

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