Malaysia-Australia Defence Alumni Association ANZAC Day Dinner

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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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25 April 2024

General Tan Sri Dato' Seri Mohammad bin Ab Rahman, Chief of Defence Force,

Malaysian Armed Forces, Her Excellency Danielle Heinecke, High Commissioner of Australia, Veterans, distinguished guests, past and serving members of the Malaysian Armed Forces and Australian Defence Force, ladies and gentlemen – It’s an honour to be here this evening and thank you for joining me. 

Anzac Day is a national day of commemoration in Australia. 

It’s a day like no other in our nations calendar. 

It represents the Australian spirit.

Born from the blood, suffering and defeat at Gallipoli that could not break the Australian spirit to fight on to victory. 

A legend hardened through subsequent wars and conflicts, through more courage and sacrifice.

Today we acknowledge all who have served in the wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations in which both the Australian and Malaysian nations have participated.

We remember those who survived their service, and who have carried the scars of conflict all their lives. 

And we honour all those who made the ultimate sacrifice and whose families have grieved for loved ones who will never come home.

On this solemn day, our thoughts are also with our Malaysian friends mourning the loss of ten military personnel in the tragic helicopter accident that occurred just days ago.

Too often the lives of those who selflessly dedicate themselves in the service of our nation are taken from us far too early. 

Australia shares your pain in this time of grief and the Australian Government extends its deepest condolences to those affected by this accident.

This week I have been privileged to visit significant war memorials at Sandakan in Sabah and Labuan, which are testament to this sacrifice by so many Australians and Malaysians. 

These sacrifices, and our shared history, form the bedrock of the Australia and Malaysia relationship today.

Cemented on the battlefields of World War Two through the Malayan Emergency and later the Confrontation, our partnership has developed over more than 80 years, through the Five Power Defence Arrangements multilaterally and now under the bilateral Malaysia-Australia Joint Defence Program (MAJDP).

Now more than 30 years old, the MAJDP is a broad program of exercises, training, exchanges and secondments. It has given participants from both countries unique opportunities to work alongside and learn from each other as genuine partners. It has enabled us to better understand each other and build trust. To build connections, both professionally and personally. 

Everyone here tonight has in some way contributed to that partnership. Every exercise, every training course, every secondment is part of building a stronger partnership between our two nations and between our defence forces. And I thank you all for your important contributions. 

Last week the Australian Government released its new National Defence Strategy.  The strategy outlines a framework to guide our efforts in response to the changing strategic circumstances. Together with the release of Integrated Investment Program, it is a blueprint to deliver an ambitious transformation of the Australian Defence Force to an integrated, focused force capable of safeguarding Australia’s security for decades to come.

Importantly, in it you will read that we have a continued focus on strengthening defence cooperation with Malaysia, including under the ASEAN framework and continued investment in the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA). International partnerships form one chapter of the strategy, recognising that our relationship and the collective security of the region is vital.

Our strength, and what gives us true depth in our partnership, is our people-to-people links. 

And through Alumni Associations like this, where our nations roots run deep.

The Malaysia-Australia Defence Alumni Association is a critical part of this partnership. In bringing together those who share this unique experience, it’s an opportunity to reconnect, to reflect and to continue to share.

The Batik shirt I am wearing tonight is the Malaysia-Australia Defence Alumni Batik design, which represents both our nations.

The hibiscus flower in the centre of each gathering represents Malaysia. 

The U-shaped patterns around each hibiscus flower represents the members of MADAA and the serviceman and woman who make up your Alumni. 

The U shape is a traditional shape used in Australian Aboriginal art to depict people and the journey lines connecting the three gathering groups represent the MADAA journey over the years past, present and future. 

The background dots represent the connection to Country that Australian Aboriginal people have.

It is a perfect representation of our close, meaningful, and valuable relationship. A blending of cultures, which respects our differences, but demonstrates that together we are more.

Thank you again for being here tonight. 

Enjoy your evening and I look forward to getting around and meeting as many of you as I can.

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