2017 ANZAC Day speech

25 April 2017

Can I pay tribute to the elders and traditions of the Yugumbir and the Jaggera people on whose traditional lands we mark this solemn and most meaningful day – and all the first peoples.


Can I thank you Ken Heard OAM, and all the men and women of the Logan Districts RSL for what you do for our veterans all year round, for organising today's ceremony, and for the privilege of inviting me to address you again this year.


Can I acknowledge all the military men and women here, from Australia and from New Zealand, those who serve and those who have served.


We are here for many reasons but above all we are here to pay tribute to your selflessness and your sacrifice and the selflessness and sacrifice of those we have lost.


Cameron Dick, the Member for Woodridge and Minister for Health, is here. Our mayor, Luke Smith, is here. Councillor Russell Lutton, all of the dignitaries are here. The people of Logan and beyond - all here to remember those who serve and those who have served. Our schools are here; our bands; our community organisations; our scouts and our guides; our footy teams like the mighty Logan Brothers in front of me here. All of us here to remember those who serve and those who have served.


To remember 102 years ago.  When the whistles sounded and the boots of the first wave of those Australians hit the water and then the sand and then the cliffs of Gallipoli on that famous peninsula - a military miscalculation which became a defining national moment.


To remember 100 years ago, when our Fourth Division was ordered to assault the Hindenburg Line in the first Battle of Bullecourt, which cost 3,000 Australian lives and was a precursor to the even more costly battle, the second.


To remember both world wars; and Japan and Korea and Malaya and Vietnam and Indonesia and Iraq and Afghanistan and all of the conflicts that we have been called to as Australians and New Zealanders.


The soldiers and the signalmen and the sailors. 


The nurses and the navigators and the nashos.


Household names like Jacka and Simpson and Monash.


But ordinary people too. Anonymous to all but those who loved them, and those they loved.


War is a clash of battalions in far away places with names like Beersheeba, or Kokoda or Baghdad. 


But it isn’t just that.


Perhaps more than anything, war can be the coming together of ordinary people from communities like ours for a cause and for something bigger than themselves.


Mums and aunties and sisters and daughters.


Uncles and brothers and dads and sons.


We see these ordinary people in their letters that have been left behind - the letters that they wrote to each other during times of war and I want to share a couple of those letters with you today.


Many of you may will know the Knox family and there are four generations of the Knox family who have joined us today and we're honoured that they have.


Some of you will know the story of John Knox, Uncle Reg Knox's father.  


A proud local Aboriginal family.


Private John Knox volunteered for the Second World War in July 1940. He fought in the 2nd div 26th Battalion, F Company, and he died as a prisoner of war at Changi in 1942.


He didn't know when he left for the war that his wife Carrie was pregnant with their ninth child.


And he never got to meet that little daughter – her name was Annabelle, a beautiful name – but being a devoted father, and judging by the letters that I’ve seen and read that the family have kept, she was never far from John's thoughts.


In one of the letters to Carrie, John wrote of the shells getting closer. In another letter, the last one that we found, he wrote to her and told her not to worry because he would never fall further than the Lord's arms would let him. But it was another surviving letter to her that grabbed my attention. It said this:


“Well love, when I got your telegram I thought something was up with Baby, as you said in your last letter that she had a cold and I was frightened to open it."


This was a man, John Knox, frightened less by a Japanese bayonet than by little Annabelle’s cold.


These letters tell a moving story and there are others as well.


Just in the last couple of weeks the Logan City Historical Museum over at the Butter Factory next to Kingston Station have been given some of the postcards sent by Frederick Pope to Frances, his girlfriend at the time and later his wife.


Many of you here know that Fred was among the first on the beach 102 years ago as part of his 9th battalion, which lost 236 men.


He was shot in the shoulder on that first day. He recovered. He fought in Belgium and France, where he was gassed and he lived to settle in that house just a couple of hundred metres from where we stand today.


He was a Woodridge man, a timber getter, a poultry farmer and he put his hand up for the Second World War as well, and served there again.


We know a great deal about Fred, from talking with his daughter, from the records that she maintained so lovingly, and also from postcards which have just resurfaced, and which will soon be displayed with his other things in our museum.


I went and had a read of them last week.  Let me read two brief snippets:


The first - 13 April 1915 – 12 days from the Gallipoli landing, he wrote to tell Frances:


“We will be in the firing line, within a week from now, so we will have to look out for bullets … I will soon be home. Love from Fred”


And then on 21 April 1915 – just four days from the landing; 102 years and four days ago today – he wrote to her again to tell her that he was “still kicking”, but had realised he wouldn’t be home as soon as he hoped. He wrote:


“Things are still going good. I can’t tell you where we are now, but am very near the firing line, and just waiting orders. I know now I won’t be home before the war is over, which I suppose won’t be yet awhile… I close with love to all. Fred”


We remember him, and we remember John Knox, and all of those who served, all of those who serve, the country we love and the causes we cherish.


This is who we remember.


This is how we remember them.


And it is why we remember them.


Their stories are somehow ordinary and remarkable at the same time.


We preserve their memories and their letters not to glorify war but to reflect on their selflessness and sacrifice – the two most admirable and honourable of human qualities.


And to inspire us to meet the standard that they set; to be worthy of the sacrifices they made for us.


Lest we forget.