FRIDAY, 25APRIL 2014
Lest we forget.
Millions of Australians will repeat those words today as the Last Post plays at all our iconic places of remembering.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, crowds will gather at Anzac Cove, Fromelles, Bomana, the Australian War Memorial, the Cenotaph and the Shrine of Remembrance.
Wreaths will be laid on monuments thronged with the names of young Australians who left their farm, country town and coastal village in a surge of adventurous hope, and never came home again.
Lest we forget is Australia’s national promise.
It is our solemn vow to always remember the courage, the sacrifice and the mateship of the men and women who have served our country.
It is a debt of redemption owed by the living to the dead.
A vow of honest commemoration, not airbrushed glorification on a day of remembered horror as well as remembered glory.
Anzac Day is a time to acknowledge the courage and consuming fear, the mateship and the sorrow.
The Australians who went ashore on that cold April morning in 1915 were not the first Australians to fight – or the first Australians to die – in a foreign field far from home.
They would not be the last. White crosses in Flanders, in Bouganville, Long Tan and Singapore declare the ground we fought in other latitudes for causes we joined and died for.
But it is the name and legend of ‘Anzac’ that has become the shorthand and code for the courage and quality of our servicemen and women.
On Anzac Day it is our duty to remember not just the volunteer citizen-soldiers whose oars dipped in the water of Anzac Cove 99 years ago this morning, but all the Australians who have risked everything in our country’s name.
We remember all those who come home forever changed by remorseless war.
The Australians who bear the physical wounds of battle, and the invisible scars of psychological trauma.
The young men and women who can never bridge the gulf between what they have seen and what they can say.
As the centenary of the First World War nears, it is only natural that we turn our thoughts to new ways of commemorating the bravery and sacrifice of our serving personnel.
I believe we should look at building an Australian War Cemetery in Canberra, in the tradition of the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, outside Washington DC.
The Australian War Cemetery would be a partner of the Australian War Memorial .
When he opened the Australian War Memorial in the dark days of the Second World War, John Curtin called it our national ‘treasure house’, the keeper of our memories.
And more than seventy years later, it is still our nation’s best museum, a place that teaches our children of the unspeakable realities of war and the wounds that were sustained for the cause of peace.
In the future, I hope Canberra can also have a place where the widows and parents and children and remembering descendants of our service personnel can come in quiet, and stand for a while among the ghosts and tell a brave, lost loved one, there in the shadows of a graduation, a wedding, a family reunion or a new grandchild.
I believe such a place would enrich the fabric of our national memory.
It would be a place of pilgrimage on our own, Australian soil.
A piece of ground now hallowed by death and gallantry and by those we owe so much, in the heart of our nation.
It would fulfil, I believe, the promise and purpose of Anzac Day, on every day of the year, at the going down of the sun, and in the morning.
Lest we forget.
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