2015 Student Anzac Commemoration Ceremony
Our Premier, Leader of the Opposition, Councillor Wines representing the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, distinguished representatives of the Armed Forces and services organisations, students, ladies and gentlemen.
This is a time for commemoration. Young Queenslanders, by being here today, you acknowledge the significance of our history. It runs from the ancient Indigenous occupation of these lands, through innumerable intervening occurrences, to today. This is our world of 2015 – our contemporary world, a world of “accessibility”.
That accessibility, that interconnectedness, would not exist but for extraordinary sacrifice on the part of our forbearers. These heroic persons were citizens, like us.
History moulds the present. And so we say, in relation to the Anzacs, “Lest we forget”.
Our Anzac ceremonies this year are very special. They commemorate the centenary of the landings of the Australian and New Zealand forces on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey.
The Anzac story is of its time. It tells of a very different Australia. Our nation was then only fourteen years old.
Its population numbered fewer than five million. Australia nevertheless contributed almost four hundred and 17 thousand young men to the Great War. Almost 58 thousand were Queenslanders.
Although originally bound for Europe, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps was diverted to Egypt where it was decided they take part in the Dardanelles campaign in Turkey.
The Dardanelles campaign was poorly planned and chaotic in execution. The Anzacs were put ashore on the wrong beach, under heavy gunfire from the Turkish forces. The terrain on the Gallipoli Peninsula was inhospitable, with steep cliffs, thick vegetation and exposed areas under constant gunfire from the Turks who occupied higher ground. Fighting was shockingly fierce. It is estimated that as many as eight hundred and sixty Australians were killed in just the first five days of the campaign.
The Anzac attack was quickly repulsed by the Turks. The Anzacs and other forces captured but little ground.
The Anzac troops were eventually withdrawn, but only after a comparatively long time – after as long as eight months of fighting. There were 25 thousand Australian casualties, including eight thousand seven hundred who were killed or died of wounds or disease. And this from a then national population of fewer than five million.
But from adversity can come triumph. It was that ill-fated Gallipoli campaign, if ironically, which gave birth to the amazing Anzac tradition.
Under extreme adversity the Australians and New Zealanders knuckled down to their mission. They did so with professionalism, bravery and good humour. Ideals of courage, tenacity and mateship were born. Over more than a century, these are the ideals which have come to define the Australian psyche – our soul, our spirit, our mind.
A century later Australia is a very different nation. The young men who enlisted in World War One were primarily white Caucasians. Thirty percent of them had been born in Britain. Our Australia is a multicultural country, with one in four citizens drawn from many countries overseas.
But we still exhibit that Anzac spirit. It, as we say, “defines us”: it gives us strength. It reminds us of the ultimately crucial stipulation, which is that we help and look after one another.
A person does not need to look like the “traditional bronzed Anzac” to possess the Anzac spirit of selflessness, comradeship and dedication to the common good. Exhibit those qualities in your day to day life and you will be living “the Anzac spirit” – that spirit forged a century ago in a kiln of adversity.
While the Gallipoli campaign was not a military success – in fact it was an unmitigated disaster, the actions of the Anzac force in Turkey fired public imagination in Australia.
There were many other fierce battles fought on the Western Front in World War One. But it is the anniversary of the landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula, on twenty-five April, which became the day Aussies and Kiwis set aside for special commemoration, the day specially to remember those who have served, and are currently serving, our countries in peace and in war.
And so we look broadly, and remember those who served on many fronts: in the Boer War, World Wars One and Two, Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Somalia, East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq. We also remember those who have served in peacemaking and peacekeeping missions throughout the world, most of which have been under the auspices of the United Nations.
We crucially remember those who have died in conflict and those who have been injured, most of whom will carry their scars for the rest of their lives. We remember the families of those who have served, and acknowledge the sacrifices they have made supporting our men and women in uniform.
As we reflect today on our service men and women, those who have served and serve, these words are uppermost in our minds: “Lest we forget”.