LAST POST CEREMONY
AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL, CANBERRA
MONDAY, 29 AUGUST 2016
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I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land on which we meet, I pay my respects to elders past and present.
Here, on ground made sacred by the courage of all who served this country, we acknowledge Indigenous soldiers like Corporal Albert Knight who won the Distinguished Conduct Medal on the Western Front a century ago and Sergeant ‘Buddy’ Lea who fought at Long Tan 50 years ago this month - equal in their bravery in war, but discriminated against at home at that time.
Today, when the last post echoes on the sides of Mt Ainslie, we come together to honour our nation’s oldest promise.
Remembering, at the going down of the sun, all those who made the supreme sacrifice in Australia’s name.
The author of the original Anzac legend, Charles Bean, said this should be a place where we ‘feel the presence of the dead’.
Where families and friends can honour the loved ones lost to them.
Not a place for the glorification of war but a shrine dedicated to all who fell in pursuit of peace.
Every day, Australians pause and lay a poppy in the Hall of Memory.
Stand in quiet contemplation before the tomb of a soldier home so late from the Western Front that his name is now known only to history.
Or witness others, passing through these doors, with their medals on, to remember a brother-in-arms.
It has been a hundred years, since young Australians fell as fast as rain in the mud of Fromelles and Pozieres.
Fifty years since the nashos and regulars at Long Tan won an incredible victory against overwhelming odds amidst the straight lines of unfamiliar rubber trees.
A deadly engagement in a decade when thousands more Australians would have their courage tested in the jungle dark of Vietnam.
Those battles, those milestones, are divided by time and distance.
Yet both, along with so many other conflicts and engagements, command a place of great honour in our national memory.
They speak for our enduring, unfading respect for all who have risked and lost their lives, so we might live ours in peace.
And in the way Australia failed to understand what the veterans of the First World War had endured, failed, for so long, to respect the sacrifice and service of those who fought in Vietnam, we are reminded of the continuing duty we owe to support every generation of service men and women and their families.
In particular we think of the new obligation owed to the new generation home from Australia’s longest war in Afghanistan.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls.
Down Anzac Avenue, across the lake, outside the parliament in which we have the privilege to represent the Australian people, sits a far smaller monument.
Placed there by the RSL, to honour all those who have worn the uniform of our country.
Its inscription reads:
“If you want to know what they believed in, look around you.”
Free people, living in a peaceful, safe and prosperous nation.
Whenever any of us privileged to serve in public office are tempted to be overly partisan, whenever our differences threaten to distract us or consume us, whenever we lose sight of what truly matters. We should follow that advice.
We should ‘look around us’, look back from the Parliament, across the lake to this Memorial.
Think of the people it commemorates, the values it honours, the country we love. And vow to do better.
We will remember them.
Lest we forget.