Address to Bulimba Anzac Service

25 April 2019

Today we stop to commemorate the sacrifices of those who served, those who stood alongside them, and those who waited anxiously, and too often in vain, for their return.

ANZAC Day falls on the anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli. We honour, today, the memories of those who fought so bravely as part of that campaign, especially those who lost their lives during it, or as a consequence of it.

And because more than a century has passed since that day, we honour, too, those who have served in wars and conflicts since.

We honour those who have served in Korea, in Borneo, in Vietnam and Malay.

We honour, as well, those who have served in peace-keeping operations in East Timor, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Somalia, Rwanda, and many other places.

We have amongst us people who have served in the Middle East. We honour all those who served there, too.

On ANZAC Day we remember the fallen, and the grief that their families and communities felt. We remember, too, the wounded – whether their wounds were visible or not.

This year the Department of Veterans Affairs has made military nurses the focus of this year's Anzac Day poster. As the department has said:

“Ever since the first nurses sailed for the Boer War in 1900, Australian nurses have served in theatres of war and conflict around the world. They have worked in hazardous conditions, endured extreme discomfort, and sometimes lost their lives.”

Six years ago I stood in this crowd as our former member, the Hon Kevin Rudd MP, gave his last Bulimba ANZAC Day address. He said:

“War is not just a thing of Kings and Emperors, of Presidents and Prime Ministers, of generals and admirals. War, in all its horror, is a very local thing as well.” 

That is all too true, here.

We are fortunate to have so many in our community dedicated to keeping our history, including our war-time history, alive.

This year I want to thank the Bulimba District Historical Society inc. for highlighting the contribution that locals made to Australia’s war efforts.

In the context of the department’s focus on nurses this year, I want to briefly draw on the Historical Society’s recognition of local nurses who served in the Great War. Their research has found four World War One nurses who had associations with the Balmoral Shire:

Constance Keys, from Galloways Hill, who served in the Middle East, England and France.

Gladys Echlin from Bulimba, who served in Egypt, England and France.

Lavinia Hardcastle from Hawthorne, who served in Greece and England.

And Janet Barron from Bulimba, who served in France and England.

I’ve spoken about those nurses before and I pay tribute to them again, today.

I also thank everyone at the Society, and other local supporters, who had a hand in the newer memorials that we see in Bulimba Memorial Park today: the honour board, and commemorative plaques.

I also wish to mention the Friends of Balmoral Cemetery, who, on Armistice Day last year, published After the Fire, the stories of 299 people who were laid to rest or memorialised in Balmoral Cemetery, and who served in World War One. I commend this important book to everyone who wishes to better understand our local history and our local connection with those who served.

The work of these and other local organisations is important. It is appreciated.

So too is the work of service and veterans’ organisations, and of those who support returned servicemen and women. Australia’s veterans, and their families, including those who care for veterans who still suffer as a consequence of their service, deserve support. As has been said before, one of the most important and urgent ways we can give weight and meaning to “Lest We Forget” is to ensure that Australian veterans and their families receive the support and respect they deserve. 

To honour the memory of those we lost, and to honour those who have suffered, and those who suffer still, we must, as a nation, remain vigilant. Today, ours is a world with rising threats, and disruption on a global scale. In navigating rough seas, our values – the values for which our ancestors fought – must be our lodestar.

The greatest lesson to learn from the loss, horror, and grief of war is the imperative to avoid war.

That requires a strong defence, diplomacy, and international engagement, including through trade. Turning inwards doesn’t keep us safe. We can’t pull up the drawbridge. We also can’t pretend that there are no risks to our security.

But, friends and neighbours, remaining vigilant does not mean living in fear. It means having the courage to stand against threats like authoritarianism or fascism. And, very locally, and in the ordinary course of our daily lives, it means building a strong community, where people seek to understand each other, find commonalities, and respect differences.

This ANZAC Day, I ask you to remember not only the original ANZACs, but all of those who have served, or are serving, and the families that stand with them.

I ask you, also, to remain vigilant, and in doing so, to be hopeful and optimistic that our spirit, our Australian spirit, which is said to have been forged in the losses at Gallipoli, will allow us to overcome challenges and build a peaceful future.

Lest we forget.