Today, 4 September, I visited the Australian War Memorial (AWM) and attended the Last Post Ceremony, my last official function as Minister for Defence.
I was accompanied by the Director of the AWM, Dr Brendan Nelson.
Dr Nelson has served the AWM admirably, and his respect and compassion for Australia’s service personnel and their families makes him especially suited for his role.
Today marks the Battle for Australia Day, which commemorates all who served and died in the defence of Australia in 1942 and 1943.
The Last Post also reminds us of the sacrifices of all Australian men and women who have served and the more than 102,000 Australian service men and women who have died in all wars and conflicts, on peacekeeping duties, in disaster relief and on humanitarian assistance missions.
Each Last Post remembers a specific Australian killed in a past conflict. Today’s Last Post remembered Flight Lieutenant John William Yarra DFM, a Second World War fighter pilot. Flight Lieutenant Yarra, No 453 Squadron, RAAF, was killed in action on 10 December 1942 on flying operations over Malta in the Mediterranean.
With the Last Post Ceremony, we also recognise the contribution of the men and women of the Australian Defence Force who are currently serving in Afghanistan, and in peacekeeping and security operations around the world.
Their service makes them a standard bearer for those who follow.
We particularly remember the 40 young Australians who have fallen in Afghanistan.
We honour their memory. Our thoughts are with their families, friends and mates.
The traditions forged at Gallipoli, Kokoda, in the defence of Australia, and in Afghanistan, have become an indelible part of our history.
The sacrifice that we honour today helped forge our national identity, helped forge our natural characteristics and helped set our national values and virtues.
It has been an honour to serve as Australia’s Minister for Defence over the past three years.
Irrespective of the outcome of Saturday’s election, I wish my successor every success.
Mr Smith’s Office: Sacha Fenton (02) 6277 7800 or 0467 784 528
Department (02) 6127 1999