Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls and most importantly Australian Defence Force members – both currently serving personnel and veterans.
I pay my respects to the traditional owners of the land, and on this most solemn occasion, acknowledge the service of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters in conflicts throughout our nation’s history, and their continued service today.
Ladies and gentlemen, this week I was in Afghanistan and other parts of the Middle East in my role as Parliamentary Secretary for Defence.
There are walls at the Australian headquarters in Kabul, and also at other bases, which carry the photographs of the 43 Australians who have died on deployment to the region over the past decade.
They join the 102,000 Australian servicemen and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, throughout our nation’s history.
Even today, as we commemorate the Centenary of Anzac – Australian and New Zealand forces are standing side by side in Baghdad, in Kabul and in the skies above the Middle East – working together again:
This time to train and support local forces in the fight against Daesh and the Taliban.
As we pause to remember the original ANZACs, I urge everyone gathered here today and at similar ceremonies across our nation – and indeed throughout the world – to also pause and remember our modern day warriors and peacekeepers.
Young men and women drawn together from all corners of Australia and New Zealand to serve our nations again.
As we tuck ourselves into bed tonight – safe in the knowledge that no harm will come to our families – spare a thought, and a prayer if you are so inclined – for almost 2000 Australians currently serving on deployments throughout the world in places like Kabul, Kandahar and Baghdad.
In places where the summer temperature will scorch past 45 degrees and winter temperature plummet below freezing: some will be sleeping in tents, others in pre-fabricated huts, or dormitories with bunks and precious little privacy.
Regardless of where they sleep, they will be away from their families and loved ones.
Pray for their safety, pray for the people they are trying to protect – pray that their missions are completed successfully and they return as soon as possible to the arms of those they love.
Ladies and gentlemen, when I was in Kabul, I thanked the troops on your behalf and told them that we were proud of them, that we supported them, and we wished them well.
I said there was no greater service that anyone can give to Australia, than to put on the uniform of the nation they love and place themselves in harm’s way to help those who cannot help themselves.
It was true in 1915 and it’s true in 2015.
We don’t seek to glorify war by gathering here today but we do commemorate the sacrifice and the extraordinary service of so many young Australian men and women – along with our New Zealand allies.
I wrote this speech aboard an Australian K-130, high above the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan where many of those 43 young Australian men lost their lives.
As I looked around the young faces on the plane, I couldn’t help but think about those other young faces in the pictures on the walls.
They were all someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s husband, someone’s boyfriend, someone’s father.
We can never bring them back but we can make sure they are never forgotten.
We can’t fulfil the promise of their young lives cut short – but we can honor them by the way we live our lives.
Just think about that when we pause in a few moments time to pay our respects to the fallen… think about what others have given to allow us to enjoy our freedom and safety.
Our tribute to the fallen – to the original Anzacs and to the 102,000 killed in countless conflicts – is the manner in which we live today.
Our world is being challenged by people who would seek to do us harm and the enduring values that the Anzacs demonstrated – and fought to protect – are as important today as ever before.
A commitment to peace, freedom and fairness
– a determination to protect the innocent
– the courage and adventurous spirit to travel to far off lands and help others
– the bonds of mateship and camaraderie to stand together in hard times and
– the resilience, perseverance and dedication to duty…
These are all values and personal attributes our nation needs from us.
That is what Anzac Day means to me – I take it as a personal challenge to ask myself: ‘am I worthy of the sacrifice that others have made, am I honouring the people who have given so much and still serve our nation’s defence force today?’.
Ladies and gentlemen, they have shown us the way, now it’s up to us.
Today, as Gippslanders and Australians, we honor the Anzacs and we must commit ourselves to respecting their enduring legacy.
Lest we forget.