Battle For Australia Commemoration Service
Representing the Premier of Queensland and Minister for the Olympics, Mr Bart Mellish MP; representing the Minister for Aged Care, Minister for Sport and Federal Member for Lilley, Ms Marian Burnheim; representing the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Councillor for Marchant, Fiona Hammond; Member for Stafford, Mr Jimmy Sullivan MP; Commander, 7th Combat Brigade Australian Army, Brigadier Michael Say DSC; representing Commander, Combat Support Group, RAAF Base Amberley, Group Captain Iain Carty CSM; representing the Chief of Navy, Commanding Officer, HMAS Moreton, Commander Fiona Southwood RAN; Deputy Commissioner for Queensland, Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Ms Tara Hatzismalis; RSL Queensland State President, Major General Stephen Day DSC AM, and RSL South East District President and President of the Royal United Services Institute, Colonel Kerry Gallagher AM; President of the United Service Club of Queensland, Lieutenant Colonel Tony Coyle; military veterans and service personnel; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen.
I begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the lands on which we gather this morning, and extend my greatest respects to Elders past, present and emerging, and to all First Nations people who have served and continue to serve our country in the armed forces.
Today we gather to commemorate a series of crucial encounters in 1942 and 1943 that turned the tide of war and saved Australia. These momentous struggles, including The Battle of the Coral Sea; The Battle of Milne Bay; the Kokoda Track Campaign and The Battle of the Bismarck Sea, among others, will forever be commemorated as the Battle for Australia.
It is hard to imagine, from this distance in time, the anguish and fear that many ordinary Australians felt in those dark days of late 1942.
We had already lost many soldiers killed and wounded in the Middle East. Singapore had fallen and, with it, our 8th Division. Significant elements of the 7th Division were lost when Java fell along with our Garrisons on Ambon, Timor and at Rabaul.
Meanwhile at home, Sydney and Newcastle had been shelled and merchant ships were being torpedoed along the coast. Japanese submarines had entered Sydney Harbour and Darwin had endured 21 months of continuous bombings.
When the Japanese landed on mainland New Guinea, then a territory of Australia – the daunting picture was complete, spawning a real and widespread fear of the potential invasion and occupation of Australia.
The ultimate Allied victory in the Battle for Australia primarily turned on the actions of Australians defending Australia and I think it worthy to remind you of the oft quoted remark made by Field Marshall, Sir William Slim, head of the Chindits fighting in the unforgiving Burmese Jungles.
He regarded Australia’s achievements as a great morale booster and later said:
‘…Australian Troops at Milne Bay in New Guinea, inflicted on the Japanese, their first undoubted defeat on land. If the Australians, in conditions very like ours, had done it, so could we. Some of us may forget that of all the Allies, it was the Australian soldiers who first broke the spell of the invincibility of the Japanese Army: those of us who were in Burma have cause to remember’.
Today we recognise the actions of those who served in the Battle for Australia and honour their commitment and bravery.
‘Lest we Forget’.