Bill's Speeches

ADDRESS TO THE CHIEF MINISTER’S RECEPTION COMMEMORATING THE 75TH BOMBING OF DARWIN - DARWIN - SUNDAY, 19 FEBRUARY 2017

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Good morning everybody. 

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, I pay my respects to elders past and present. 

I acknowledge the Chief Minister and all of his representatives here and the people working. 

I want to thank Darwin for organising and helping drive for the Commonwealth, this 75th anniversary. 

I say that because, like many Australians, I had family who served in the Second World War. 

I had a couple of great uncles who were Catalina pilots and others, and indeed, my grandmother's cousin lost his life in Kokoda. 

But it sometimes takes the re-examination of our history for individuals to go investigate their own family stories. 

I recently - two years ago - had the privilege of attending Gallipoli for the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli. 

And the great shame at a personal level in particular, is that I found that I had family by marriage who died at Gallipoli, like so many other people had family members who died there. 

But at the 100th anniversary, it's too late to talk to the people who were there. 

That is why I am grateful to Darwin and I am going to talk about veterans in a moment but this is just not another anniversary. 

At least not for me and I think it is not just an anniversary for a lot of people. 

Those who have served in the Great War have gone. 

And they are remembered but those who served here, and those who served in the Second World War - there are still many who are with us. 

And this is what these whole series of services today has reminded me. 

I was talking to a couple of blokes - they were up the side and they were telling me about the bombings. 

You, and four or five others, were here on the first day of bombing. 

It is a privilege for the rest of us to be able to talk to you about your stories. 

For me, the strength of this event is not the official speeches or the laying of wreaths, as important as that is. 

I think for a lot of us, the strength of this event was when we saw the veterans and their families queuing up. 

There are moments in time in public life, and I am privileged to serve in public life, which speak to something better. 

Just as there might be moments in sport or moments of achievement but I don't think I am over-egging it to say that when we saw the veterans line up to go towards the monument, the Cenotaph, the rest of us felt a connection, and you have made us all a lot prouder. 

No one can take that away because at least we are here for this anniversary and we can say thank you in person because in 25 and 30 years’ time, it won't be possible.   

Seventy-five years ago – Japanese aircraft dropped more bombs here than they did on Pearl Harbour. 

Hundreds were killed. 

I learnt today that more Americans died defending us than I had realised. 

They were:

  • Postal workers and wharfies.
  • Nurses and local Aboriginal people.
  • Men, women and  children.

Homes and churches and jetties were destroyed.  

American, British and Australian ships sunk and sent to the ocean floor. 

Undoubtedly,  it was a scary experience yet, they stuck to their posts, manned the guns, tended the wounded and fought the fires and worried about people. 

I think that true courage doesn't come from the absence of fear – but from facing fear and overcoming it. 

That’s one of the qualities we admire most about our people. 

I came across an observation from Chief Petty Officer Tom Minto that – for me – speaks for the character of so many in Darwin that day. 

Steadfast bravery, calm good humour – a refusal to surrender to fear or despondency. 

And, I think, a bit of cheekiness about the system. 

Tom recalled, in the days following the bombing, hearing a spokesman for the government say on the radio when the spokesperson announced: 

“The attack would not give any satisfaction to the enemy.” 

And he thought to himself: 

“the enemy must be very hard to please.” 

Friends 

We've seen the moving ceremonies this morning. 

And we've heard, it wasn't just in Darwin - but Broome, Port Headland, Townsville, Exmouth and Katherine. 

We also heard about and were reminded of the generation of who we were privileged to have some of them here today. 

This was a generation in a different time. 

I have spoken to my own grandparents when they were still with me - they'd come through the Great Depression, raised by parents who knew the pain and sorrow of war – and yet who still stepped forward to serve their nation. 

But what amazes me then was what happened after the Second World War. 

In 1960, when the salvage operations were happening, a Japanese contractor had got the job. 

And whilst there were protest in Melbourne and Sydney - because that's what we do in Melbourne and Sydney - but here, in this special place which is Darwin, people got on with it. 

The hand of friendship was extended. 

Truly, it is a story only Australia could tell. 

Seventy-five years ago our great war-time Prime Minister, John Curtin said to the people of this nation:

Darwin has been bombed but not conquered. 

Whatever the future holds in store for us – we are Australians and we will fight grimly, and victoriously. 

The Australians we salute at this 75th anniversary – we are grateful we are members of the same nation that you were and are. 

We hope that if we ever face the same challenges you have, we respond in a fashion similar to you. 

Thank you for showing the way. 

We honour them. 

We will remember them. 

Lest we forget.

 

ENDS


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