24 April 2023
SUBJECTS: Anzac Day 2023
MATT KEOGH, MINISTER FOR VETERANS’ AFFAIRS: It’s an honour to be in Gallipoli in the lead up to the Anzac Day commemorations that will be occurring on the 25th of April here. Right here I've met with my New Zealand counterpart. We have a number of engagements today, including a New Zealand commemoration ceremony and tomorrow we have a number of commemorations with other nations including Commonwealth nations and the French as part of the lead up to Anzac Day.
And as we've moved well past now the Centenary of Anzac Day, it's great to see that for the ceremonies that will be held on the 25th we have now over 1600 Australians and New Zealanders that will be attending. Over a third of those are under the age of 34, which really demonstrates that Australians hold Gallipoli and the work that happened here from Australian and New Zealand personnel as part of our forces close to their hearts. And of course, when we have the commemorations on Anzac Day, not just in Gallipoli here in Turkey, but around the world Australians will be remembering, not just our first Anzacs, but Australian service personnel that have been engaged in war, in conflict and humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts for over 108 years since that time as well.
It's a deeply moving and great honour for me to be representing the Australian Government here at the events that will be occurring over the course of the next few days in the ceremonies and of course, the Dawn Service for Anzac Day 2023.
JOURNALIST: It is your first visit here to Gallipoli, what's the feeling like for you and what does it mean for you to be here?
MINISTER: Well, personally, as the new Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, it is a great honour to be representing the Australian Government here in the ceremonies in the lead up to Anzac Day, it's actually really moving to not just spend time in these war cemeteries like this one here, but to look at the terrain and to gain that first hand understanding of what our diggers were having to endure when they came forward on the land, when they came across these waters. And when confronted by this landscape, which was so difficult for them to deal with, as well as of course, the forces that were opposing them as they came ashore. So to get that first hand understanding, seeing that, it's a great honour and it's incredibly moving to be a part of.
JOURNALIST: Australians continue to want to come here, they do you think it resonates so strongly?
MINISTER: So that's right, so the 1600 or more people that will be attending the ceremonies on the 25th this year, three times more than we had last year. Of course, we've now moved out Covid, but it's the biggest crowd numbers we’ve seen since the Centenary. And I think what that really demonstrates is that the Anzac legend is still a strong one in the hearts of Australians of all ages, and that it means something to all Australians and because it is really that embodiment of that great concept of mateship, of always looking out for your fellow Australian, and the fair go that everyone seeks to have, to embody from the Anzac legend and that resonates with Australians and I think that’s why we see such significant numbers come to the ceremonies.
JOURNALIST: You mentioned that figure of about a third, sort of, younger backpackers, but in previous years, that would have been a lot higher. So do you have any theories or ideas as to why this year in particular more older people are coming? Any ideas as to why that is?
MINISTER: Well, it’s great to say that we've got a great spread across all age ranges coming to attend the ceremonies. A lot of people planned to come 2020 and planned to come in 2021 and 2022, especially in that older age range that have been waiting for this opportunity to come this year. And so we're seeing that great diversity across age ranges people including this really important event, in their itineraries when they travel and we look forward to that continuing to be the case. I really want to acknowledge the support that we've got from the Turkish Government for being able to hold these commemorations as well. Turkey suffered some tremendous earthquakes earlier this year. The Australian Government was very quick to provide assistance to the Turkish people in their hour of need of that tragedy, but we continue to receive great support from the Turkish Government for these ceremonies.
JOURNALIST: And the 1600 figure, I know members in your department were quite surprised at just how quickly people wanted to get in after what had happened with COVID. Was there a bit of a concern about whether you would go back to those days?
MINISTER: I think, certainly our hope was that as the whole world moved out of COVID, if you like, that there would be some pent up demand for people over the last few years that had wanted to come to the ceremonies here to Gallipoli here in Turkey had not been able to and I think what we've seen is that it was correct. People are really keen to continue to travel here to be part of the ceremonies and to pay their respects to family members. And what we've seen is that people are continuing to look at their own family histories and to get a better understanding and to find those connections, find those great grandparents or great uncles that were part of the people that came ashore here as part of the battles that were fought here. And some who continue to lie here and to come and visit their headstone and to pay their respects.
JOURNALIST: And the Chipper brothers you visited. Can you just imagine the pain of their parents?
MINISTER: Look it was it was moving to stand just over here to look at a row of headstones from the 10th Light Horse Brigade, Western Australia’s own best and brightest who came to fight here in Gallipoli and the two Chipper brothers, to lose two brothers, farmers from York, just down the road from where I live and well known to many Western Australians and I've had the opportunity to read some of the letters they wrote back to their parents in Claremont and talking about their experience here and the positive hope that they had about their experience and what they were looking forward to achieving as part of their contribution to the efforts here as part of the first World War. And to think for the family to lose not just one, but two sons, it’s absolutely tragic. And I have no doubt reverberating through that family for years, decades and generations thereafter. That is the story of so many Western Australians and Australians that continue to receive those stories passed down at Christmas lunches. They were talking about people who weren't there and had been before the generations. And those stories being passed down and why we still see Australians today wanting to be part of these commemorative activities and to come and visit these headstones and to pay their respects here at Anzac Cove. Thank you very much.