Bill's Speeches

ADDRESS TO THE LAST POST CEREMONY - AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL, CANBERRA - MONDAY, 5 FEBRUARY 2018

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Good evening everybody.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet and I pay my respects to their elders both past and present. 

In particular, I acknowledge all the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who served Australia with skill and courage, well before Australia served them with justice and equality.

Prime Minister, parliamentary colleagues, distinguished guests, one and all - my fellow Australians.

This Last Post ceremony is held every night of the year except for Christmas Day.

Today is an important Last Post because when John Curtin opened this sacred place, on Remembrance Day 1941, he said: 

"The Parliament of the free people will be inspired and strengthened in the performance of its duty by the ever-present opportunity to contemplate the story that has gone before them, the deeds that helped to make a nation and the unifying purpose which links the ordered ways of a free people with that matchless courage which inspires its sons and daughters to maintain it.”

When Curtin spoke these words here in 1941, in the audience were eighteen Australians who had won the Victoria Cross in the First World War.

Men awarded the highest honour, for the greatest valour, in what they were told would be the war to end all wars.

Standing where we stand now these eighteen and many other returned serviceman from the First World War - they would have had the horrors of battle etched in their mind.

Their fallen brothers, held in their hearts.

But in 1941 the fragile peace that so many had fought for had already been shattered by a second devastating global conflict.

At the very moment that this memorial was being dedicated, a new generation, perhaps even the children of these veterans, were risking and losing their lives in defence of Australia. 

So, from its very first day, the Australian War Memorial has served to honour both the heroes of the past and the courage of the present.

And today, as representatives of the Australian people, we gather to fulfil this tradition.

Now in 2018, there is no-one left among us to speak for the Australians who answered their country’s call one hundred years ago.

No-one who stood in the mud and blood of the Western Front, no-one who heard the thundering hooves at Beersheba or ran through the hail of gunfire at Anzac Cove.

No-one who was ‘left to grow old’.

Yet the names and deeds recorded in the very walls around us and in hundreds of humble memorials around our continent, have not faded.

It doesn't matter if it is in a small country town or in this most remarkable memorial, the names we read reach out to modern Australia with a weight and a meaning and a truth that defies the passage of the years. 

Every generation of service has added to that story, in the finest traditionsORM of Anzac and Australia: loyalty, bravery, good-humour in adversity, solidarity in hardship.

These qualities withstood the sternest tests and shone through in the darkest hours – in the Pacific and the Mediterranean, New Guinea and North Africa, Korea and Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan - on the land, in the air and by sea.

So today – and every day - we salute all those who have worn our nation’s uniform and we say thank you to their families, for their service, for a love and sacrifice which often goes unseen.

And as we return to parliament for another year, trusted with privilege of representing the people of Australia, let us promise to do better when it comes to living up to the best traditions of our nation.

Let all of us who serve in the ‘parliament of a free people’ promise to do better when it comes to caring for the brave sons and daughters who have kept Australia free.

And let all of us do better to honour our nation’s oldest promise.

We will remember them.

Lest We Forget.


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