I am honoured to address this Remembrance Day service here today and would like to acknowledge that we have gathered on Darug land and I pay my respects to elders past and present of all Australia’s Indigenous people.
It’s been 94 years since gunfire stopped on the Western Front, ending four years of warfare that forever changed the face of Australia and the world.
The war of 1914 – 1918, in many respects, forced maturity on a young nation quicker, more painfully, than most would expect.
Today we honour those who plumbed unimaginable depths of personal courage to confront the savagery of war – and who did so to honour their pledge of service for others; for those closest to their shoulder or those tens of thousands of kilometres away.
We remember this war as World War I but at the time it was known as ‘The Great War’ or with a label that history would later mock: ‘the war to end all wars’.
There was nothing great about this war other than the scale of lives lost and it certainly did not end wars for future generations.
How is it that such lofty adjectives could be assigned something so horrible?
Was it simply an expression of hope that wars would have no place in our future; that we would purge out some need for conflict once and for all; or was it an attempt to ease the minds of those still at home?
History records that more than 416,000 Australians enlisted for service and, of these, more than 320,000 served overseas.
By the time the war ended, more than 60,000 Australians had lost their lives on the Western Front, at Gallipoli, the Middle East, the high seas and in the air.
Decades on, Australians’ minds were focussed on Gallipoli and our heroic sacrifices there, but dutiful respect is now paid to the battles on the Western Front.
Fromelles, Somme, Bullecourt, Armiens, Mont St Quentin. Some places in a distant land that have earned great meaning for those of us gathered here.
Last week, I was proud to present to students at St John Vianney’s Primary School in Doonside, the Anzac Day Award for NSW Schools from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
The Award recognised their study of military campaigns and their efforts to establish memorial gardens in the School grounds.
The moment was not lost on those older members of the crowd gathered; to see our next generation begin to appreciate the weight of sacrifice made by those before them as they recounted, for example, the Battle of the Somme where 60,000 perished in the single worst day in British history for loss of lives.
The way these students are keeping the ANZAC spirit alive, there in Doonside and in our broader city, is something we can all be proud of.
As we see today, the younger all over Australia continue to remember the sacrifices of Australian Service personnel.
94 years after the Armistice was signed bringing an end to hostilities, we stop for one minute’s silence today to reflect on the loss and suffering caused by war and we wear a poppy as a symbol of remembrance and new life.
We remember the 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in service to Australia—including 39 young men who have lost their lives in Afghanistan.
We remember those who returned home and the families of those left behind.
We remember those who still live with the mental and physical scars of their service. And we remember those who are serving Australia today.
Lest we forget.