We gather at this hour, and on this day, to remember the ANZACs who landed at Gallipoli and who landed in history’s page on 25 April 1915 and who bequeathed to us this day’s name.
We remember the terrible loss that they and Australia suffered.
We commemorate Gallipoli’s great and enduring significance for our people and our nation.
We gather too to remember all those Australian men and women who have served and died in wars and conflicts, on peacekeeping duties, in disaster relief and on humanitarian assistance missions.
There is an unbroken lineage from those who landed at Gallipoli to you, some of the 3000 young Australian men and women who currently serve our national interest on operations overseas.
You have chosen as your standard the glorious achievements of the original ANZACs. Your distinguished service here in Afghanistan will make you a standard bearer for those who follow.
Yours is a noble calling.
You are asked to gallantly and selflessly tread the rough and uncompromising path of duty and sacrifice and to do so with compassion for those to whom we extend the hand of friendship.
We remember today that 23 young Australians have fallen here in Afghanistan. We honour their memory. They were and remain our mates.
We remember that half of them have fallen in the short time since ANZAC Day 2009.
Our thoughts are with their loved ones back home today.
Those men, like the first ANZACs, and like you, came from the broad sweep of Australian society.
Like the first ANZACs, and like you, they volunteered to serve in Australia’s uniform, and to defend our nation and the values we hold dear.
And like you and the many who have served, they took on tough, dangerous, vital work, far from home.
Your work here, in Uruzgan Province, is surely tough and dangerous.
The award of the Victoria Cross twice in Afghanistan, for the first time since 1969, is a measure of the test you face.
It is also a measure of your determination.
Your work is making a real difference on the ground.
Your work has seen you and Afghan forces extend security to areas previously controlled by the Taliban – from the Tarin Kot bowl to the Mirabad valley in the east, Deh Rawud in the west, and north through the Baluchi valley into Chora.
Together you are covering more ground, extending the reach of the Afghan government throughout the province.
But we must expect the Taliban to fight back.
The coming summer will be tough.
We can expect our adversaries to strike against coalition forces and civilians alike.
As we prepare for it we are mindful of the human toll of the fight.
Among the Afghans, among other nations, and at home, you are highly respected for your efforts and your results.
In the tradition of Australians serving around the world, you are known for your regard for the local Afghan people, among whom you work and live.
Equally, you are known for your professionalism and bravery against a determined adversary.
These are qualities shared by Australians whenever and wherever they have served.
These are qualities and principles Air Chief Marshal Houston has embodied throughout his 41 years service to the nation.
This is the CDF’s last ANZAC Day in uniform – a uniform adorned with an Air Force Cross, awarded for his skill and daring as a helicopter pilot.
We thank him for his leadership and his exceptional service to our nation.
Today as well quiet pride is mixed with the tragic sense of loss at lives cut so cruelly short.
Quiet pride in the fierce independence of the Diggers, in their unfailing loyalty to their mates through good times and bad.
Quiet pride in a legacy which underpins what we aspire to as a nation and a people.
The sacrifice that we honour today helped forge our national identity, helped forge our natural characteristics and helped set our national values and virtues.
A nation egalitarian in spirit and independent by nature.
A belief in a “fair go” for all and in not leaving the weak or vulnerable behind.
Optimism about what can be achieved by ingenuity and by working together.
Defiance against the odds and finding strength in a sense of humour in adversity.
Gallipoli now embodies these characteristics in an enduring way.
It is an indelible part of our history and a continuing inspiration for our future as we join in ongoing respect and gratitude for the fallen.
Lest We Forget.