Anzac Day Speech - Terri Butler MP, Labor for Griffith

Anzac Day Speech

I was honoured to deliver the ANZAC Day Address at the Bulimba District RSL Sub Branch ceremony at Bulimba Memorial Park. You can read my speech below.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and I pay my respects to their elders past and present. Today I also pay my respects to the young indigenous men - around a thousand of them - who fought for the Commonwealth in the first world war, and those who have fought in every conflict following.

I acknowledge

  • Lieutenant Commander Marcello Quintieri, Executive Officer, HMAS Moreton
  • Lieutenant Commander Craig Flynn, RANR
  • Andrew Herbert, Former Member Australian Army 2001-2011, deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Di Farmer MP, State Member for Bulimba
  • Councillor Kara Cook, Councillor for Morningside
  • Mr Trevor Wheate, Secretary, Bulimba District RSL Sub-Branch
  • Mr Brian Laing, Past President, Bulimba District RSL Sub-Branch
  • South Eastern District RSL QLD Branch
  • Reverend Sarah Leismann, Chaplain, Cannon Hill Anglican College
  • The Queensland Detachment of the Royal Australian Navy Band.
  • All serving and former members of the armed forces.

I am honoured to give the ANZAC Day address here in Bulimba.

Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance, where we come together as Australians to remember the sacrifice made by so many in our name.

In particular, we remember the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who landed on the beaches of Gallipoli on this day, 103 years ago.

We remember, yet cannot fully comprehend, what one would have felt that morning.

On the 25th April, young and far from home, propelled by a nation, the Anzacs approached a foreign shore. 

Each year we commemorate their service at dawn, and use the sacredness of the half-light to reflect on the braveness of those men that morning.

We remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. And we remember all Australians who served and died in all conflicts, wars and operational service.

Those who have fallen on battlefields far from home, and those who made it home to their loved ones but bore injuries sustained serving their country.

We remember those who suffered, and continue to suffer from physical, mental and emotional injuries, sustained as a result of their service.

And we owe it to them and their families, to remember the terrible lessons of war and the pressing imperative for peace.

We remember the Anzacs through stories, tales and events, all of which are etched in our national history. They have helped form what we acknowledge is a unique Australian spirit.

Bravery, courage, steadfast loyalty and faith, and of course mateship, are all terms synonymous with the Australian character. Labels earnt and forged by those who have gone to fight for their country, and labels that should remain anew.

They are stories told in our schools, passed on from parents, and grandparents to our children. They are national stories that say as much about what we have done as about whom we are.

We all know the story of Gallipoli. Of the Australians, who along with troops from New Zealand, France, and Britain were deployed by ship to ANZAC Cove on April 25, to assist the British in an operation to ultimately capture the Turkish capital of Constantinople.

We don’t remember Gallipoli because of its failure as an operation. We remember Gallipoli because of the bravery of our soldiers. We remember the courage of those at Lone Pine who held their position despite numerous counterattacks by the Ottomans.

We remember the endurance of those that survived under the harshest of conditions until the eventual evacuation in late December.

And we remember the 26,111 Australian casualties, including the 8,141 lives lost.

In all 152,000 Australians were wounded during the First World War, and 62,000 died.

And we remember those men and women who served in conflicts and peace keeping missions since – on the Kokoda Track during the Second World War.

And those that served in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

And we pay a thought for those service men and women who are currently deployed overseas today.

These brave tales, while we recall them with pride, don’t adequately express the personal element of war. These are located in letters, postcards, photos and names. And today we honour and renew that personal connection.

That is why we gather like we do today. Here in Bulimba, in Morningside at dawn, at the Greenslopes Hospital, Camp Hill State School, and across this community.

Because every suburb and town of this country has stories of local men and women, who, despite their love for their family and friends, and their community, answered the call to serve this nation.

Like the four nurses, Gladys Echlin, Constance Keys, Lavinia Hardcastle and Janet Barron. These women all had connections to what was then the Balmoral Shire, and are memorialised here in this park. Lavinia Hardcastle lived in Virginia Avenue in Hawthorne, Constance Keys was raised in Norman Park, Gladys Echlin was born at her family home on Hawthorne Road and Janet Brarron’s mother lived in Brisbane Street during the war.

So though we can’t repay the debt we owe, we can gather together each year, not to glorify the devastation, but to make sure those sacrifices are never forgotten.

Constance Keys was a highly decorated nurse. She sailed with the 9th battalion on the Omrah in 1914 from Brisbane. After the Gallipoli landing she wrote,

 “Remember the bad days I used to have in Brisbane at the Hospital, well the days here have been worse than that. It often seems hopeless trying to cope with work, but when I think of those hundreds and hundreds of men – our own men – well I put on a spurt and try and work a bit harder.”

It is no wonder that Constance is remembered as a “gentle, compassionate and fearless woman”.

These women were exposed to shelling, aerial bombardment, and were susceptible to disease. Many served on hospital ships close to the shore at Gallipoli and on the Greek Islands’ of Lemnos and Imbros, and back in Alexandria. Like the men, it would have been their first experience of war, working together with inadequate resources in the most difficult of conditions.

We honour these women, who treated the immediate impacts of war, the effect on the physical body, and the mind of its soldiers.

Today, we remember the personal connections impacted by war. The loss of a husband, a father, a brother – a mechanic, engineer, a teacher.

Kenneth McKie was born in South Brisbane in 1889, he lost his cousin in the war effort, two months before himself dying in war. After being notified of the loss of his cousin Douglas, Kenneth wrote a letter to his Douglas’ bereaved little sister. It read;

“Dear Kitty,

I feared when I saw the black envelope, which reached me today. So poor Douglas so soon paid the price of freedom. Consolation by letter in such losses is futile. I should like to be with you, to try if together we could see the neat path of devotion and duty which Douglas and so many others have trod and to try to find comfort in the manner of his passing. For surely as we understand it, the noblest death a man can meet is in the great struggle for the protection of his womenkind, the existence of his country. I wrote Douglas yesterday little thinking what I should hear today. But war is a fearful school. It teaches us so thoroughly the lesson that each moment sees the extinction of many lives. In the freezing night, when the shells and bullets are flying thickly, one gets to realise & to acquiesce in the realisation that any moment may be one’s last. It is extraordinary how one hears without emotion of the death of some friend of acquaintance which in civil life would have shocked and horrified one. But I think it is this numbness of the brain and emotions which preserves one’s reason. If one continually and fully realised all the terrors of war I think it would mean madness.”

There are many that endure the continued and full realisation of the terrors of war, and today, 103 years on, the final commemoration of the centenary of the Anzac, we owe it those people to extend the spirit of Anzac to our communities today.

Every year, we gather to remember Constance and Kenneth, and all those from this community, and communities across the country who have served and those who have fallen.

I express my deepest condolences to all present who have lost family and friends to war, armed conflict, or dangerous peacekeeping missions. And I offer sympathy, as inadequate as that is, to those survivors who’ve been wounded, or have been affected by injury, whether physical or psychological.

And finally, on behalf of my constituency, I also offer my humble thanks, to everyone who has served.

Lest we forget.

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