Bill's Speeches





Next week, Australia’s eyes will again be turned to a narrow stretch of rugged coast on the other side of the world.

We will, as a nation, remember the lost generation who fell there, a century ago, far from their homes.

We will remember their brothers, their graves marked by white crosses amidst red poppies in foreign fields.

We will remember 60,000 young people, lost to an even younger nation.

And we will remember those who came home, forever changed by the hardship they had faced and overcome.

The wounded, unable to return to the jobs they left behind.

The soldier-settlers stretched by a harsh land they could not tame.

And those who carried the hidden scars of trauma – the husbands and fathers who could never find the words to tell the people they loved why things could never be the same again.

We remember their families too, the parents, wives and children who welcomed home a different person to the one they farewelled.

The First World War left its mark on our people and our continent like few events before or since.

Across our country, families and communities counted the dreadful cost.

We all know towns where the list of names etched into the weathered white stone seems impossibly long.

We have all paused in front of honour rolls in our local halls where the surnames come in threes, and fours.

The brothers who couldn’t be separated, the strapping sons lost to their families, sometimes in the same hour of bloody chaos.

On days like this, as we gather for the rituals of respect and contemplation as we say together ‘Lest we Forget’, we rededicate ourselves and our nation to the honoured memory of the fallen.

And we declare, once more, that their sacrifice was not in vain.

We remind ourselves of what they fought for – the people they loved and the country they believed in.

One in five of the first Australian Imperial Force were born in Britain.

And our nation had bound itself to Britain’s cause: to the last man and the last shilling…yet what we lost, and gained, in that terrible war did not belong to Britain.

The sacred name of Anzac, the bravery and sacrifice of the young citizen-soldiers we honour today – and every day – belongs to all of us.

It is wholly, utterly, Australian.

Australians risked and lost their lives not for the ‘green and pleasant land’ of England but for the free and fair nation they had built here, beneath the Southern Cross.

They sent words of comfort to anxious parents in Bunbury and Launceston, not Bristol and London.

They wrote to sweethearts in Parramatta and Essendon, not Plymouth and Essex.

At Gallipoli they sought race results from Flemington, not Ascot.

It was Australia they loved, it was Australia who mourned their loss.

It was Australia who cared for the loved ones they left behind and it is Australia who honours their sacrifice still.

Ladies and Gentlemen

There is no-one left among us who knew firsthand the courage and chaos of the 25th of April 1915.

Those left to grow old have gone too.

Yet their story will always be part of our Australian story.

The Anzacs will always speak to us, and for who we are.

In the coming years of commemorations, I encourage all Australians to honour the memory of those who served by looking up into the branches of their family trees.

Try and find out, if you can, the history of your family’s service.

Together, let us learn and tell the story of the ordinary people who found the courage to do the truly extraordinary.

Let us, as a new generation, give new meaning to the solemn national promise we repeat today.

Lest We Forget.