Address to the sufferings of war and service ceremony

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The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

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Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275

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22 February 2024

I would like to acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples, the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we meet, and pay my respects to their Elders, past and present.

I also acknowledge all those who have, or continue to serve our nation in uniform, and the families who support them.

Today I am proud to dedicate this new sculpture on behalf of the Australian people in recognition of those who have suffered as a result of their service to our nation.

Alex Seton’s sculpture, For Every Drop Shed in Anguish, lays like a spray of droplets before us.

A bead of sweat; a fallen tear; a drop of blood.

Symbols of the pain, hardships and sacrifices made by our service personnel and the families who support them.

These seemingly delicate marble spheres grasp a deeper strength, immediately apparent when you lay a hand on their smooth surface. 

They speak not only of the toll service demands on those who wear our uniform, but also of their fortitude, to heal and carry on.

And this is just as true of their families.

Because along with the anxiety that comes from having a loved one serve, families are often called upon to be their primary support, their advocate, even their carer.

More than anyone else, families bear witness to the trauma that can result from service. For some, this can be felt for generations.

Though these burdens often go unseen, they nevertheless represent a great weight, borne by many.

Many of you who join us today.

Thank you to the members of the Sculpture Commission Committee, whose tireless work has brought this project to fruition.

You, along with countless other veterans and families, have been powerful voices, advocating not only for this sculpture but to bring the issues that so many face to the fore.

To better discuss and understand these challenges.

To see the hidden scars and acknowledge their causes and consequences.

Because those consequences can be far reaching.

Even after a uniform is hung up for the very last time, experiences of war and service can cling fast to the heart and haunt the mind.

Many carry those burdens for the rest of their life.

For others, it has cost them theirs.

And for each person lost to suicide, there is a ripple of pain across the community – from those who loved them most, to their friends and comrades in arms.

Each a new drop of anguish.

A tight knit community taught to operate as one, heartbroken.

The rate of veteran suicide in Australia is a national tragedy.

A tragedy that successive Governments failed to act upon, to care for our nation’s veterans.

That’s why the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide is so important.

It is a significant moment in our nation's history, which will better support our veteran community into the future, helping to ensure the tragedies of the past are not repeated and that veterans go on to live successful, fulfilled lives after service.

Suicide is an extremely complex and multifaceted phenomenon.

We must be alert to the risks and make sure those who have experienced trauma, those who are vulnerable, are looked after and are taken seriously.

Memorials like this have an important role to play in fulfilling that mission.

They stand as an enduring reminder of the impact service has on individuals and families.

Blood may be wiped away; sweat evaporates; tears dry.

But the pain those wounds leave behind can remain as solid and permanent as though they were carved from stone.

It is my hope that this memorial will provide a place of quiet contemplation for veterans and their families now, and for generations to come.

May it speak to the trauma that can result from service, both seen and unseen.

May it commemorate those who have made sacrifices for the good of our nation, both in uniform and civilian.

And may it remind all those who pass among its silent forms, of the eternal cost and consequence that service carries.

Lest we forget.  


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