Tumut’s Federal Member Colonel Mike Kelly, AM, spoke at the Anzac Day service at the cenotaph, Richmond Park, on Tuesday.
Prior to his speech Veteran Ray Lipscombe recognised Mr Kelly’s service in Somalia, Bosnia, Timor and Iraq, and noted that he was one of the only Federal Members of Parliament to have served.
Mr Kelly made the following speech:
I want to praise you for your dedication for turning out on a morning such as this, but I think it’s entirely appropriate that we do.
A day like today really symbolises two things to me.
Firstly, the millions of tears that were shed by the families of all those that were lost in the many operations to which we have committed.
And secondly, of course, to the conditions that our servicemen and women endured on many harsh locations around the world: up to their thighs in mud in the trenches of the Western Front, or in the trying monsoonal rains of the Far East.
So thank you for honouring that service and memory.
Today, the day of the Gallipoli landings, is an interesting one that Australians have chosen to focus on in remembrance.
It wasn’t a day of glorious military victory.
This was a day that began a long and bitter campaign that did not end in success. But that captures the essence of the Australian commitment and spirit.
Firstly, that we will persevere in the face of adversity.
Secondly, that we do not choose to glorify war.
We choose to dedicate ourselves to ending wars, and also to be prepared to fight the forces of evil in this world when that becomes necessary. We also, as we know when we visit the Australian War Memorial, honour the everyday Australians that stumped up as volunteers in those efforts.
The statues that stand in front of the War Memorial are Simpson and his donkey, and Weary Dunlop: two men that didn’t even carry a rifle – but that symbolise everything that we value about Australians, who look after each other, and endure.
I think today of honouring my own grandfathers and every generation of my family that have served in that voluntary spirit, and in particular of my grandfather who served in the Middle East.
He was captured in Java and forced to endure the Burma-Thai railway.
None of us today can really imagine the horrors that those men endured. I still today have his loincloth from that experience, and whenever I think I’m doing it tough I pull out that loincloth and think ‘harden up, sunshine. Life could be much worse.’
I think today we should take the main message as a nation and as a people that we dedicate ourselves to being worthy of that memory; to making the most of the opportunities they gave us, and to also persevere, because progress and peace is not inevitable.
It always takes continuous fighting, continuous serving, and continuous perseverance to maintain, to enjoy this wonderful, peaceful land that we live in. Our veterans march in front of us and they lead us on, and we must follow, and we must dedicate ourselves to those values.
We are in the context of recalling the great conflicts of the First World War, passing through this four-year period. We should reflect on how long that period was, of great national turmoil, tragedy, and endurance. This year we are marking Bullecourt and Beersheba, and we are also looking at the 75th anniversary of World War II, and that critical dark year when our very national existence was at stake.
Thank you for being bold enough and committed enough to be here today, and thank you for allowing me to share this.
Remember that what we can do together is always greater than what we can do as individuals.