One hundred and six years ago, soldiers from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula.
The landing was part of the ill-fated Dardanelles Campaign – the Allies’ attempt to break the stalemate on the Western Front by opening a second front that also sought to force Ottoman Turkey out of the war.
Bitter fighting took place over the following months, resulting in dreadful casualties on both sides.
With no chance of success, a withdrawal commenced; and in December that year, the remaining Australians were evacuated.
Of the 50,000 Australians who served on Gallipoli, more than 8,700 died and almost 18,000 were wounded.
Gallipoli was one tragedy within the greater catastrophe of the First World War.
A war which engulfed a generation and defined the times which followed.i
Today, we pay tribute to all Australians who have served and died in wars and operational service.
Those who fought to end evil and topple tyranny.
Those who worked to protect and promote peace.
Those who returned from service physically wounded and mentally scarred.
And those who gave their lives, sacrificing their days so that we could live ours.
On this sacred occasion, we also thank the men and women of the Australian Defence Force.
Those people who today carry on the duty of defending our nation and its interests.
Men and women serving at home, in our region, and far beyond it.
They contribute to our national responses to the pandemic and natural disasters.
They support our Pacific friends and neighbours.
And they help maintain maritime security in the very important Indo-Pacific region.
They assist in international peacekeeping, humanitarian, and security operations around the globe.
Australians are grateful for, and proud of the efforts of our servicemen and women who keep Australia safe and secure.
And importantly today, we acknowledge their families.
The wives, husbands, children, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and grandparents who make a sacrifice in their own right while their loved ones are away on training or on mission.
Today, Australians across the nation will commemorate Anzac Day in many ways.
Some will attend dawn services, local memorials and parades.
Many will watch the televised national service here at the Australian War Memorial and importantly observe one minute’s silence.
Others will proudly wear medals – awarded in service or handed down by loved ones.
But the manner of commemoration is not as important as the mere act of commemorating.
For in remembering the original Anzacs – and those that followed them – we not only recall their deeds, but also recognise the best qualities that defined them.
Qualities which represent the highest standard for the Australian character and the society that we desire to live in.
A society defined by sacrifice, not entitlement. By mateship, not malevolence. By egalitarianism, not tribalism. By responsibility, not resentment. And by optimism, not cynicism.
On Anzac Day, we express gratitude through tribute, we nurture community through commemoration, and we find meaning in remembrance.
Lest we forget.
i With acknowledgement to Bill Gammage, The Broken Years: Australian Soldiers in the Great War, Australian National University Press, Canberra, 1974, p.xvii