ANZAC Day address – “Unveiling of Toowoomba Anzac Centenary Wall”

23 April 2015

Today – and in the coming days – our nation will commemorate 100 years since a brave generation of men and women stormed the shores of the Gallipoli peninsula and forged a new chapter in our national consciousness.

Now that there are no longer veterans still here to recount their experiences and physically remind us of the Gallipoli campaign, Anzac Day has taken on a new meaning – one of national introspection – about what it means to be Australian and how we can best acknowledge the service and sacrifice of previous generations.

Just as the original Mother’s Memorial was built by mothers to honour their soldier sons who did not return from the war, let this Anzac Centenary Wall and the wider Mothers’ Memorial precinct serve in the years and decades to come as common ground for Toowoomba’s people to reflect on our city’s proud record of national service.

Australia’s official chronicler of the Great War, the legendary war correspondent C. W Bean, was not long off the boat back to Australia, having spent years following our soldiers onto the major battlefields of Gallipoli and the Western Front, when he penned a powerful tribute to the 60,000 fallen soldiers that Australia lost in the war to end all wars.

Almost a century since he put pen to paper, Charles Bean’s words still have as much resonance today and provide as much inspiration to the current generation who seek to both celebrate our veterans and strive to make our nation great:

They gave it into your hands, Australians, when the bullet took them.

Australia lies in your hands now, where those men, dying, laid her.

They started out on it with such pride in their country and what they were going to do for her.

They fought to keep the world (and Australia above all the world) a free place, where men have the right to live according to their lights, provided those lights involve no harm to others, without being dictated to by others who happen to be stronger than they.

They know that if the rule of Might over Right became the order of the day, then Australia was not safe – and they wanted Australia to be the sort of place which we think ideal to live in.

They wanted to make her a great and good country.

That is what Australia was to them.

That is why they fought.

They began the fight grandly.

They established the name of our country amongst the foremost of all brave nations.

They made our people a famous people, though it is only a small people; they made it so famous that every Australian is proud for the world to know that he is an Australian.

That was what these men did for you – all in three or four years.

I don’t suppose that one of those men ever died without thinking of those behind him in Australia.

They liked to think that Australia was as proud of them as they were of her; that Australians were watching their deeds as anxiously and proudly as a mother watches her sons.

But now they have handed the nation building work on to you; when they fell dying they left it in your hands – yours and ours who survive them.

Who is going on with that work for her? Who is going to finish the fight which they began?

Cecil Bean closed by asking his fellow Australians:

Who is going on with that work for her? Who is going to finish the fight which they began?

You – the young people of Australia. You, or no one.

These words remain – and will forever be – a powerful call to action passed down through the generations that we must never forget.