PM Transcripts - Prime Ministers of Australia

Anzac Day National Ceremony Address to the National War Memorial Canberra

Prime Minister - Rudd, Kevin

Speech - 25 April 2008

We stand here today in this avenue of heroes.

This avenue called ANZAC.

This avenue with its monuments of steel and stone.

Silent, still, but speaking to us softly with the voices of a hundred thousand souls.

Each one of them with their name etched with care on the walls of this great memorial which stands behind us.

Each one of them the name of a precious life cut short through service to the nation.

For they were the best of us.

And not just these one hundred thousand who spilt their young lives.

But the million and more who have worn the nation's uniform in war and whose lives were forever changed.

And the lives of their families - where lives shattered and lives lost also left their wrenching human mark.

I met some such families yesterday - the families of HMAS Sydney.

I met widows married barely a year before Sydney was lost.

I met sons and daughters who never knew their fathers because Sydney went down before they were born.

I met others who lined the streets to hail Sydney's returning heroes from her exploits in the Mediterranean - daughters who as little ones had cheered their dads as they marched down George street but who six months later with the weeping mothers crammed into the cathedral trying to fathom their fathers' loss - the same cathedral where yesterday we once again as a nation met to remember them.

And then there were their mates - still scratching their heads, wondering why fate had intervened, and why they were not among their ship's crew at Fremantle for its final voyage.

St Andrew's Cathedral yesterday was like this great open-air cathedral today - awash with raw emotion; awash with the bewilderment of loss; but galvanised still with a steely pride.

So what would this brave company of men and women - these hundred thousand voices - a have to say to us today?

What would the 645 brave men who these last 66 years have lain entombed in Sydney's iron grave beneath the deep - what would they say to us today?

What is it about their stories that wrenches us still - fully 90 years after the Armistice that ended the war to end all wars.

I think it is this.

That whatever the comforts of our modern age; whatever its distractions and whatever its disillusionments - that there is something unique about this land Australia and the ideals for which we Australians stand.

That this is a place of unparalleled beauty.

That we are a good people who want for the good of others.

That we stand for a deep sense of liberty for which our forebears fought and which should never be surrendered - whatever the cost.

That we are a people who by instinct cannot stand idly by and be indifferent to the suffering of others.

A people with a sense of a fair go for all carved deep into our national soul.

A people also alert to the needs of our friends and allies.

These are the values which summoned forth the sons and daughters of ANZAC over the last 100 years from our smallest towns, our greatest cities and our most remote outback.

It is this, I believe, that touches us afresh each ANZAC morning - the fresh voices of those who have indeed not grown old because their voices still whisper to us amid the quiet reflections of this sombre day.

So what of the future?

Will these great ANZAC values fade as human memories fade?

I think not.

In fact I know not.

I have an absolute confidence that these values run deep in the veins of young Australians - such as those young Australians who as we speak here today gather silently and reverently around Anzac Cove on Galipolli's shores.

And not just there - but across the hundreds of theatres in which our one hundred thousand heroes fought and died.

At Villers-Bretonneux where 90 years ago today we lost one and a half thousand winning liberty for a single village of France.

Beyond the killing fields of the Western Front, Australians will also gather today in North Africa and the Middle East.

At Hell Fire Pass and on Kokoda.

In Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam.

And at the cenotaphs spread richly across this vast continent honouring each ANZAC name and the homes from which they sprung.

And for all of us, wherever we gather this morning, their voice, the voice of those one hundred thousand heroes, is clarion clear: hold fast to these values for the future; give of ourselves not just for ourselves but for our nation; and remain forever vigilant in the defence of our liberty.

For the price of this nation's continuing liberty is our eternal vigilance.

Always striving for peace.

Always ready should peace fail.

This at least we owe them.

To our men and women in uniform today, I say thank you on behalf of a grateful nation.

To those on duty today in Iraq, Afghanistan, East Timor, Solomon Islands, Sudan, the Sinai and Lebanon - I say thank you on behalf of a grateful nation.

I say again what I have said before; there is no higher calling in Australia then to wear this nation's uniform.

To our veterans here assembled; to those on parade across the country and to those whose limbs no longer allow them; I again say thankyou on behalf of a grateful nation.

To their families - those who have born the scars of war for a lifetime in a way which no one else can begin to understand; I say thank you on behalf of a grateful nation.

There are many grand avenues in the great cities of the world - most of them much older than this one.

But there is something haunting, almost holy, about this avenue of heroes here in our nation's capital.

At one end, this memorial to Australia's war dead.

Looking down to the other end to the great monumental symbols of Australia's hard-won freedom.

Causing us to remember afresh this day that one is always guaranteed by the other.

For freedom is always purchased by sacrifice.

Lest we forget.