Press conference - Albany, Western Australia

Release details

Release type

Related ministers and contacts

The Hon Matt Keogh MP

Minister for Defence Personnel

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Media contact

Stephanie Mathews on 0407 034 485

Release content

11 November 2022

MATT KEOGH: It is a pleasure and honour to be here in Albany, Western Australia as part of commemorations of Remembrance Day this year – 104 years ago at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the guns fell silent across the Western Front as the four years of the First World War came to an end.

And as we commemorate the end of that war we think of not just the soldiers that gave their lives and those that fought in that battle but the 103,000 Australian soldiers that have lost their lives for their nation. And all of those people – men and women that have served our nation in conflicts around the world – being here in Albany is of particular significance because it was the point of departure for nearly all of the Australians that went to fight in the First World War. Forming up here in a convoy, two convoys of vessels that went off towards Egypt and then on to Gallipoli, on to the Western Front. For so many thousands of them, this was the last part of Australia they ever saw.

As I mentioned, of course, today we don’t just remember those who fought in the First World War. But particularly this year in 2022 we commemorate and remember the Battle for Australia. It’s the 80th anniversary of the Battle for Australia this year when the Second World War came to our very shores. A frightening moment for Australians, protecting our lands here as well as the islands and seas to our north.

It's also the 75th anniversary of peacekeeping. Australia was involved in the very first United Nations peacekeeping operations in what is now Indonesia and has been involved in peacekeeping operations for every year since.

And this year also marks the 50th anniversary of the end of national service. And we thank all of those people that served as Nashos and at every conflict. Many, of course, in all of those conflicts, gave their lives, but all of those that participated came back with injuries physical and mental. And, of course, their families – families that lost loved ones, families that supported loved ones that came home.

So on this Remembrance Day, it’s important that we keep all of that in mind as we wear our red poppies as a nation to reflect on those that have given their lives and sacrificed for our nation and for others and those that have served our nation.

And today I’m also very pleased to be able to announce that we have now identified three previously unknown Australian soldiers from the First World War. Two of those soldiers were previously unknown soldiers identified. In 2010 their bodies were found but remained unknown. We’re now able to identify them as having died in the Battle of Fromelles on the Western Front in France as Private Grace and Private Gray, and a third soldier that we’re able to announce today who died in Belgium, was part of a group of five Australian soldiers found in the early 2000s. Three of those soldiers were earlier identified. We can now identify Private Gibbens, the fourth of the five. And work continues to identify that fifth soldier.

This is important work that the Australian government and Defence undertake. When we say those words on days like today – Remembrance Day – lest we forget, it’s not just about keeping people in our minds; it’s also about the unending search to make sure that of all of those unknown soldiers that have died in past conflicts that we will continue to strive to identify who they are in an effort to also reconnect them to their families that still remain here in Australia.

And so I really want to thank the archaeologists, the anthropologists, the DNA experts that have been working tirelessly on this work to identify our unknown soldiers, and particularly now to be able to identify Private Grace, Private Gray and Private Gibbens. And I also want to thank their family members who contributed their DNA samples to enable for those final matchings to occur, to be able to reconnect those family members now to knowing that not only had they lost a loved one in the First World War but we now know where their final resting place is. And next year they will have new headstones unveiled to mark their names with their remains so that their family members and other Australians can properly commemorate and remember their memories.

And as we move into next year where we will have the opportunity of Anzac Day memorials across Gallipoli and at Villers-Bretonneux on the Western Front, today we open the opportunity for Australians to acquire tickets to those very important ceremonies of commemoration. Australians can now register to get a ticket through, so that they can participate in these very important commemorations.

In years gone by thousands of Australians have made the trip to the Western Front to Villers-Bretonneux or to Turkey to Gallipoli to participate in these very important Anzac Day commemorations. But over the last few years because of the impacts of COVID people have not been able to make that journey. So for those Australians that wish to take part, as we know so many wishes to do, especially those that have family members who fought in those important battles at Gallipoli and on the Western Front in France, the opportunity is now open to acquire a ticket at no cost so that they can be registered to participate in those very important commemorations, the first major commemorations overseas that we’ll be able to hold after COVID. 

JOURNALIST: On the National Anzac Centre, is there a bigger role for the Federal Government to play in funding or running the operation of the centre, or should it be left to the local government who currently have to charge visitors?

MATT KEOGH: So I’ve just been up to the National Anzac Centre today and I’ve met with the members and representatives of local government up there to talk to them about their concerns about whether there’s an opportunity for the commonwealth government to participate in the funding for the operations of that centre. They provided me with some information, and we’re going to consider it and look into what are the options that might be available.

Obviously, the Federal Government’s primary responsibility is with the National War Memorial in Canberra and running our overseas memorial centres as well. But I’m happy to receive that information. I’ll be having further engagements with the City of Albany.

JOURNALIST: The Albany RSL is reporting it will have a significant shortfall in funding for its normally high standard Anzac Day service next year. You talked about the significance of Albany’s wartime history. Do you think more funding should be made available?

MATT KEOGH: I’m aware that the RSL have identified a funding shortfall. And I don’t have much more detail than that. But I look forward as part of, no doubt after commemorations today for Remembrance Day I’ll be able to have some further engagement with the Albany RSL to get a better understanding of the issues they’re confronting, as I know quite a number of RSLs around the country are confronting in terms of funding their ongoing commemoration activities and I’ll be talking to them about that today.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned [indistinct]?


JOURNALIST: Are you concerned the Albany centre might close?

MATT KEOGH: I’m not concerned that the centre will have to close, but I’m certainly [indistinct] will be having discussions with the City of Albany about [indistinct].

JOURNALIST: China’s President has reportedly told the Chinese military to prepare for war. How concerning is that kind of rhetoric?

MATT KEOGH: Well, we saw in the strategic update from 2020 that we are now in a situation where we no longer have a decade’s lead time for potential conflict in our region. We now know and have been saying for a government for some time that we face the most complex set of strategic circumstances in our region since the Second World War. I don’t think any of those recent statements change that circumstance whatsoever. It’s why as a new government we’re undertaking the Defence Strategic Review to make sure that having identified the difficult strategic circumstances that we now confront that our defence posture is set up most appropriately to deal with those circumstances.

JOURNALIST: Can you provide an update on the cyber hack of ForceNet? Has Defence determined how many personnel have had their [indistinct] data compromised? 

MATT KEOGH: So the ForceNet issue is one where an external provider to Defence has had its data compromised, which involved 2018 data in the ForceNet system, which is utilised by some Defence personnel. We know that that data may have been caught up in the ransomware attack. We’ve not seen any evidence at this stage of that data being made available online, and we’re very happy to see that. But we are having ongoing engagement with Defence personnel to make sure that they are taking all the appropriate steps to protect their privacy and themselves from any potential identity theft. But at this stage we still haven’t seen any evidence of that data being made available.

JOURNALIST: Is this your first time in Albany?

MATT KEOGH: This is my first time in Albany in quite a long time. I did spend quite a few Easters down here as a child on holiday. Albany is always a lovely place to visit. And I’m sorry it’s been so long since I have been here, but I’m really happy to be able to come here, especially on Remembrance Day, because Albany being such an important part of our Anzac story and tradition and that story of Australian defence men and women going off to fight in conflict. And given that I’m very pleased for my first Remembrance Day as the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel that I’m able to be sharing in the commemorations here in Albany.

JOURNALIST: Will you be coming back to Albany [indistinct]?

MATT KEOGH: I have no doubt that I’ll be coming back to Albany. I just need to work out when my schedule [indistinct].


Other related releases