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ANZAC Centenary Speech Notes – Kalamunda RSL

Thank you. It is a great honour to be here with my fellow service men and women and your families and friends. As a Gooseberry Hill girl, and now a member of the Kalamunda RSL, it is particularly meaningful to join you for this ANZAC ceremony in the Centenary year of the Gallipoli landing.

On ANZAC day we neither celebrate, nor glorify war – we celebrate the human spirit – the Australian spirit of ANZAC. We come together to commemorate the men and women who have served our country over the past 100 years. ANZAC does not stand for you or me. ANZAC is about us, all of us. From our first peoples to the latest citizen.

It is a day where we commemorate the selfless sacrifice made by ANZACs past and present; and in doing so pay tribute to their memory and enduring legacy. Although time dims our memory of ordinary events, it does not dim great events. In Australia’s history it is these great events, whether in times of war and peace, that live on in our memories, regardless of time.

One hundred years ago on April 25th at dawn, a group of young and Australian New Zealand men, some as young as 16, waded ashore on a small beach on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey. These young and spirited volunteers were drawn to serve King and our new Country. They had romantic notions of battle, heroism and adventure, and were convinced they would be home by Christmas.

2000 Anzacs were dead by the end of that first day, but through their perseverance, courage and comradeship they held their ground for eight long and bloody months. It was a baptism of fire.

At Gallipoli, our young men and women were tested beyond endurance and witnessed the many unspeakable horrors of war. As they lost their innocence, so too did our nation. Every community large and small suffered unimaginable losses.

The pride and grief of Australians following the landing at Gallipoli formed a bond so profoundly strong it made a statement to ourselves and the world, that we had come of age and that our people were now truly united as one, that we were an independent and proud nation. Gallipoli played a pivotal role in forming our own unique national identity and established the beliefs and values that still define us today.

The strength, determination, ingenuity, mateship and larrikinism of our first diggers, are traits that still proudly define us today. Indeed, the spirit of ANZAC is still as relevant today as ever, despite the passing of a century. If you went to Afghanistan and Iraq today, the mateship, the jokes and commitment to get the job done would be the same.

This Anzac Centenary year I personally feel an overwhelming sense of pride, not only as an Australian, but as a West Australian, now as an elected representative, a service woman and a granddaughter of an original Anzac. My grandfather Alfred George Reynolds was one of the young soldiers who departed Albany in the first convoy and came ashore at Gallipoli on that first morning. He was a 3FD ambulance medic, who against the odds, survived not only Gallipoli, but also virtually every major battle on the Western Front.

Unlike so many of his mates, in 1918 he did return, alive but damaged, which like so many veterans is damage that not only endures but is shared by their family. On Tuesday I travel with my father and brothers to Gallipoli, to pay respect to my grandfather and all others who have and continue to serve us. By commemorating this Centenary, it also gives us an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of “Lest We Forget”. For over 100 years we have uttered these words to commemorate service and sacrifice, but rarely do we stop and consider their deeper meaning.

But ANZAC day is not a commemoration of war’s victories or lamentation of its defeats. Instead we remember that ordinary women and men were prepared to make personal sacrifices.

Many gave their lives and many more had their lives changed forever in exchange for the freedom and quality of life that we all enjoy today. Like most veterans, my own grandfather rarely talked about his experiences in war, and after his death it was up to my family, like so many other families, to piece together the stories.

This special ANZAC day is an opportunity for us all to reflect on the nature of service and the contributions of our own family, friends and members of our communities, past and present. Sister Agnes Tait from Carmel, who is the only woman on the Kalamunda and Districts RSL Honour Roll. Sister Tait, against her parents wishes, trained as a nurse at Perth Public Hospital and joined the Australian Army Nursing Service on August 23, 1915, embarking from Melbourne the next day on the RMS Morea en route to Egypt.

Sister Tait served in Egypt, a casualty clearing station in France, and at base hospitals across Europe and England spending the last two years of the war at a Red Cross Hospital Ship, returning wounded soldiers back to Australia. She was promoted to Sister in October 1918 and eventually returned home to Kalamunda where she went on to serve in the district throughout the remainder of her career. One of our ordinary locals who provided extraordinary service.

There are thousands of other names from other wars where Australian, and NZ, lives were lost in the cause of a better world. We remember the airmen who flew in hazardous missions over Europe in WW2. The gallant pilots who fought in the victory at Milne Bay. We remember the sailors and submariners who were away from home for long periods on hazardous missions fighting to keep the vital sea lanes open, HMAS Sydney, Midway and Coral Sea.

There were battles near and far from our home land in the inhospitable terrain of New Guinea and Asia, Africa as well as Europe. We remember those who became POW’s from all fronts of the two world wars. Australians have fought with distinction since the two world wars: in Korea, with the battle of Kapyong and campaigns such as Borneo and Malaya are not forgotten.

Our commitment to conflict in Vietnam, where over eight years, 46,000 Australian men and women served- again with contingents of NZ forces. Australian and NZ men and women have continued to serve together on peacekeeping and in conflict zones around the world, most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, conflicts in which both our nations have lost members of our armed forces and won VCs for their valour.  

Today, many more women serve shoulder-to-shoulder with our men.
While in earlier wars, men bore the brunt of the fighting at the front, it should not be forgotten that ANZAC women, like Sr Tait, were also serving in uniform within range of the fire. In fact, Australia awarded 7 military medals to nurses during the First World War for displaying bravery in the face of the enemy.  

Similarly Indigenous Australians have also had significant, but until now, little known roles in our armed forces. The stories of these men their bravery and the injustices that they suffered after the war, risk being lost to time. We must remember their efforts and redress the wrongs. Recent events at home and abroad have highlighted the need to be vigilant to ensure our society remains one of freedom, tolerance and a fair go for all. We must never become complacent because we will always need to fight to preserve the values and beliefs that define us.

Today our men and women continue to serve with great distinction to preserve these values. In return, it is our moral obligation, to ensure all veterans and their family not only receive our thanks but also our support.

Lest we forget

Coat of Arms