HMAS Perth Association Queensland 80th Anniversary Commemoration Service of the sinking of HMAS Perth and USS Houston
Representing the Premier, Assistant Minister Bart Mellish MP; representing the Leader of the Opposition, Mr James Lister MP; Representing the Chief of Navy, Commanding Officer HMAS Moreton, Commander Fiona Southwood; Vice-President, HMAS Perth Queensland, Mr Darry Neild; all other distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen; girls and boys.
I begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the lands around Brisbane, the Turrbal and Jagera peoples, and extend respectful greetings to Elders, past, present and emerging.
I am deeply honoured, after quite a few attempts, to be joining members and friends of the HMAS Perth Association Queensland to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the sinking of the HMAS Perth and USS Houston.
As we stand here now, in the peaceful surrounds of Memorial Park, it is difficult to imagine the horrific events that took place into the early hours of March 1, 1942 in the treacherous waters of the Sunda Strait.
For the Australian and American military personnel aboard the two ships, the odds of succeeding against a massive Imperial Japanese Navy taskforce were low.
Yet, with bravery and determination, driven by outstanding leadership, the crews of the Perth and Houston did all they could to hold off invasion, even as they were being attacked from all directions, at close range and with their ammunition reserves dwindling.
By the end of the battle, and with the sinking of the two ships, hundreds of Allied personnel had lost their lives, and many more were to die later in dreadful conditions as prisoners of war.
Of the 681 Australians aboard the Perth on that mission, only 218 men eventually made it home.
As we reflect on the story of the Battle of the Sunda Strait, it would be easy to be overcome by its tragedy.
But I know that the HMAS Perth Association, and this annual commemoration serve a much wider purpose.
By honouring the injured and fallen, we are reminded that the peace we enjoy today has been enabled by the valiant efforts of those who came before us, who demonstrated such a strong unity of spirit.
While I am of course saddened by the lives lost, today’s ceremony of remembering encourages us to reflect on what this sacrifice means to us eight decades later.
It is why the original survivors formed the Association back in 1947, and why you all continue to uphold the tradition today.
I thank the HMAS Perth Association Queensland for looking after the welfare of its members with such dedication, and take this opportunity to thank serving and ex-naval personnel for your significant contributions to the safety and security of our nation, and the world.
I am proud, as The Queen’s representative in this State, to be marking this historic occasion with you.