Feb 1, 2021









Prime Minister Scott Morrison and all my parliamentary colleagues.


Matt Anderson, Director of the Australian War Memorial.


Sharon Bown, representing the Chairman of the War Memorial, and a member of its council.


Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Vice Admiral David Johnston.


Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Michael Noonan.


Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Richard Burr.


Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld.


All veterans and serving members of the ADF represented here this evening.


And finally, the Ngunnawal people, on whose land we are gathered.


As a sequence of musical notes, the Last Post does not place great demands on the bugler.


But its simplicity is deceptive, masking a power and an eloquence that resonates within us all.


It calls on us to remember.


It calls us together with the spirits of the fallen.


It calls on us to contemplate the magnitude of the debt that we owe them.


And it urges us to reaffirm our vow that we will never let them fade.


This memorial — this secular temple of memory — is a place where we hold on to the lessons of history.


Suffering. Courage. Sacrifice. Victory. Loss.


This building, and all that it holds, stands as a reminder as eternal as the flame that burns within it.


A reminder of the long and terrible cycle of wars.


Those who went.


Those who never came home.


Those who never came home the same.


The soldiers. The sailors. The air crews. The doctors. The nurses. The engineers. The mechanics.


The chaplains who went to provide spiritual succour. The journalists who went to strike history’s brutal first draft.


Our nation has stood against darkness and won, but darkness is not vanquished from the world.


Freedom is not something we can keep carelessly.


Nor is freedom free. We gather here to remember those who have paid its price.


But there are holes in our memory we need to fill.


Not least the Indigenous soldiers who went and fought.


Those First Australians who donned the khaki and left their homes to fight for a nation that was not prepared to fight for them.


A nation that did not treat them as equals.


Not when they went. Not when they returned from those distant battlefields.


Yet they went.


They fought for a continent that had been the home of their people for a long, unbroken chain of millennia.


A continent for which their ancestors had fought so desperately during the frontier wars — wars we have not yet learned to speak of so loudly.


They died protecting their loved ones.


They died protecting their way of life.


They died for their country.


We must remember them just as we remember those who fought more recent foes.


When this War Memorial was opened in 1941, the calamity of World War II was only months away from coming over our horizon and reaching our shores.


On that day, Prime Minister John Curtin said that this place would bring us closer to the meaning of all this courage and sacrifice and faith — all of which would be desperately needed in the coming years.


And he said, “This Memorial belongs, like the capital city itself, to all Australia”.


Just as it belongs us, so do the responsibilities it places upon each and every one of us.


This place reminds us that even in the greatest darkness, we must never stop seeking the light.


I often turn to two of the great examples with which our national Parliament has been graced.


Tom Uren, my mentor and a giant of the Labor Party.


And Sir John Carrick, Tom’s comrade and a giant of the Liberal Party.


Both of them were Australians who, in war, saw the worst of humanity — and were forever after driven to seek out its best.


They held up the past to us and, in doing so, held out the hope of a better future.


That is the spirit that brings us together here. To remember — because there are some things we cannot afford to repeat.


To remember those who have gone before us to protect what we had — and thanks to them, still have.


And to remind ourselves that the way of life we have is not something we can take for granted.


With the ground once again shifting beneath our old certainties, the act of remembering takes on even greater importance.


That is why we hold in our hearts those precious three words:


Lest we forget.