Bill's Speeches

NATIONAL COMMEMORATION FOR OPERATION SLIPPER

SPEECH

 

NATIONAL COMMEMORATION FOR OPERATION SLIPPER

 

AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL, CANBERRA

 

SATURDAY, 21 MARCH 2015

 

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Members of the Australian Defence Forces, members of the Australian Federal Police and civilian agencies that served in Afghanistan, reservists, your families, fellow Australians and other distinguished guests,

 

It is fitting we are assembled here at the Australian War Memorial to honour the contribution of our veterans from Afghanistan.

 

When our great wartime Prime Minister, John Curtin, opened this Memorial, seventy four years ago, he said:

 

“No one who enters this building can leave it…without being brought one step nearer to the ultimate meaning of all this courage, all this sacrifice, all this faith.”

 

Today, at this memorial dedicated to those who fought tyranny, and indeed all around Australia, we salute all of you who have brought new honour to the Anzac tradition.

 

We honour your steely professionalism and your conspicuous personal bravery.

 

We renew our promise to remember your brothers, who lost their lives in the mountains and green valleys of Afghanistan.

 

We pledge our support to the wounded and to all those who have come back to Australia forever changed by what they experienced.

 

We pay tribute to your families who have known the long, lonely anxiety of a loved one in harm’s way.

 

And in all this, we bring our nation a step nearer to the ultimate understanding of courage, sacrifice and faith.

 

It has been said of the first Anzacs: ‘if you want to know what they believed in, look around you’.

 

Look at our free society, our people safe, our nation at peace.

 

And many thousands of kilometres from here – and for many years to come - the people of Afghanistan will say, if you want to know what the Australians of Operation Slipper believed in, look around you:

 

10 million children at school, up from 1 million under the Taliban.

 

3 million girls going to school, up from none at all.

 

Look at towns in Uruzgan province with electricity and new schools – light and learning where once there was darkness.

 

Look at young Afghan men learning a trade and new skills, where once they were taught only violence and hate.

 

This new hope, this new chapter in the story of Afghanistan is your monument.

 

You were guardians of our nation at a time when Australia needed you.

 

And you made it possible for the people of Afghanistan to restore peace to their lives and their country.

 

Of this you can always be proud, and Australia will always be proud of you.

 

But we owe you more than praise and pride.

 

Words of gratitude for your service must be matched by deeds of practical resolve and meaningful help.

 

We recognise that your war experience did not end when the Australian flag at Tarin Kowt was lowered for the last time.

 

The return to life in Australia, the return to civilian life, the journey from a war zone in southern Afghanistan to a suburban home in Australia can be a difficult one.

 

It can bring stresses and strains for you and the people who love you.

 

Today reminds us all of our obligation to help through this, to provide you support for the next phases and challenges of life with confidence and optimism.

 

This is our shared national mission now, it is the promise I believe is being made today.

 

And it is at the heart of the words we say every time we meet on this hallowed ground.

 

Lest we forget.

 

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