PRIME MINISTER: To the Larrakia people and your past, present and emerging elders, veterans and all Australians serving with us today, we owe a debt, a sense of gratitude, which we can never fully express. .
To the Australians, gathered here and around the nations this morning, one and free, for their sacrifice.
We gather at this dawn, to remember, reflect and rededicate ourselves.
Like General Jim Molan, our colleague in Parliament, who said “it takes a nation to defend a nation”.
And what ultimately matters in this task is a people who have a fierce and protective love for their nation and their freedom.
A love of home, family, community and country.
A will to live for all those things that need to be sacrificed for something far greater than themselves.
This morning, far from here, that is exactly what the Ukrainians are doing. And on this special day, as we honor those who fought for our freedom and freedom, we stand with the people of Ukraine who are doing the same right now.
In the Australian War Memorial’s Hall of Remembrance there are stained glass windows depicting Australians in uniform.
There is an infantryman, a sailor, an airman, a nurse, a signaller, an engineer, a machine gunner and a wounded soldier.
And below each is a word.
One word is the foundation of everything: devotion.
Devotion to Australia and our values has driven women and men into every place – in every battle – where our history has been written.
From the muddy trenches of Europe to the dust of North Africa and the vast waters of the Pacific.
The freezing snows of Korea, the sweltering jungles of Vietnam and the sweltering heat and dust of the Middle East.
And here in Darwin, when the Australian continent was repeatedly attacked 80 years ago.
Through it all, our military men and women have defended our land and our values with dedication.
It is often said on ANZAC Day that we come together to remember the dead – the nearly 103,000 men and women whose names adorn our hallowed roll of honor.
And the hundreds of thousands of others who have worn our uniform – and perhaps their loved ones really know them best.
But we also come together to remember this agreement that binds all Australians past, present and ultimately future.
To understand us and our precious democratic heritage.
In the words of Sister Vivien Bullwinkel: we must never forget “that the lives, opportunities, sports and freedom of our young people were purchased at a price”.
To forget the past is of course to repeat it.
The late Clive James said on an ANZAC Day long ago the memory of past sacrifices fades, he said, ‘precisely because we have the world our parents dreamed of’. And I would say fought for.
But our world is changing.
War is once again prowling Europe.
Coercion once again troubles our region.
An arc of autocracy challenges the rules-based order our grandparents established.
And the democratic and free peoples are once again united.
Facing this world, we must remember again.
If only then, only then will we truly appreciate what these times demand of all of us.
On this ANZAC day, I think of two young Australians.
The first, Sydney Kinsman, enlisted at the start of World War II.
He had just turned 19.
His father did not want him to enlist.
But Sydney’s determination wins out and he joins the 2/48th Battalion.
He was among the first in Tobruk, defending against the Nazi march on Egypt.
There were months of scorching days, bitter nights, and frayed nerves from the constant threat of enemy fire.
Later, he will fight in the first battle of El Alamein.
Before being taken prisoner of war.
Eventually getting away – hiking under the cover of darkness, with a fellow Kiwi and a fellow Victorian, through the Alps from Italy to Switzerland.
This teenager who enlisted eight decades ago is now a centenarian who lives in Alice Springs, and I caught up with him yesterday.
Sydney says “Anzac Day is a day you remember so much”.
Today we also pause to remember another Australian who served.
He too faced resistance enlisting.
His name was Frederick Prentice.
He spent his early years at Powell Creek Telegraph Station about 800 kilometers south of here.
When war broke out in 1915, he wanted to enlist.
But that was not allowed – because he was native.
The Defense Act prohibited “men of no substantial European descent” from enlisting, she said at the time.
But he got involved anyway.
And as a soldier, he faced the worst of the war.
Four years of active service.
He lived through the carnage of the Western Front.
Twice he was the sole survivor of a six-man machine gun team torn apart by enemy fire.
In 1916, Private Prentice received the Military Medal for his actions at the Mouquet farm in Pozières.
The citation read: “he displayed great courage, resourcefulness and ability to get machine guns and ammunition through the enemy barrage and rough terrain”.
He served our country despite the rampant racism and discrimination of that time.
It’s easy to love a country that loves you; much harder if you don’t feel loved in return. It shows the true love for our nation, which extends to this day.
After the war he became a gold digger and eventually settled in Katherine and died alone in 1957 and was buried in an unmarked grave.
Fortunately, Frederick Prentice’s story does not end there.
More than half a century after his death, local members of the Stolen Generations demanded that he be given a headstone and a soldier’s funeral.
And last year, on Remembrance Day, Lance Corporal Federick Prentice MM received the honor he so deserved.
One hundred and six years have passed since he enlisted.
But Australia remembered. And Australia has changed too, since he enlisted.
We are becoming the country he could have dreamed of.
A country that is both fair and free.
Like our 19th Prime Minister, Sir John Gorton, was also a veteran – an airman who had been shot from the sky. He described Anzac Day as a day “when we look back and we look forward”.
He also said that if our dead could speak to us, they would say this: “We bought your freedom with our lives. So take that freedom. Keep it as we have kept it, use it as we can no longer use it, and with it as a foundation, build. To build a world in which wickedness and poverty, tyranny and hatred, do not exist”.
“Don’t disappoint them,” he said.
And on this sacred day, the citizens of our country who face the challenges of our time, of our generation, solemnly pledge together, that we will not do it.
Let’s not forget that.