11 March 1996 - 3 December 2007
SPEECH AT THE
OPENING OF THE VISITOR CENTRE
SHRINE OF REMEMBRANCE
SUNDAY, 17 AUGUST 2003
Chairman of Trustees, Premier, Members of Parliament, veterans, widows and dependants of veterans. Ladies and Gentleman.
I have been coming to the Dawn Service here at the Shrine every year over the last decade, but I didn't come this year. On the 25th of April this year I stood on the shores of Anzac Cove. There was some doubt as to whether the young people would come this year for the commemoration at Anzac Cove. We'd had terror events, and the newspapers were full of the story that al-Qaeda operatives had entered Turkey. Security was very tight. As we gathered at Anzac Cove at 4.30am in the dark it was impossible to tell whether the young Australians had come for commemoration.
I will never forget as the rays of light came across the Aegean Sea, lighting up the Sphinx, and Plugge's Plateau, the Nek, and Russell's Top. Seeing the faces of ten thousand young Australians, and all of whom had stayed over night many of whom had Australian flags draped around their shoulders. But it moved me very deeply. Why is it that young Australians will travel half way around the world and endure the cold and commemorate events which happened so long ago, nearly 90 years ago. It's because Anzac means so much to us even today. I think as they walk amongst the headstones, those backpackers, those 19 year olds, those 20 year olds, they look at the previous generation of 19 and 20 year olds that fell in Gallipoli. They ask themselves whether or not they are up to the same commitment to their country, to their ideals, to their friends.
Anzac Cove, of course, is where the story started. We built the Shrine here in Melbourne, which dominates the streetscape of the city of Melbourne, as you look down Swanston Street, and that's fitting. I find it amazing that this Shrine was built in 1934 by public donation, the height of the great depression, and yet the people of Victoria were able at that time to build this fantastic building. And it's embedded in the consciousness I think of every Victorian.
One of my earliest memories as a young child was turning on the telecast of the Anzac Day parade, to look for my grandfather walking down Swanston Street. For him it was a long walk because he had been wounded on the Western Front. And then to see the Second World War generations come through, my father and uncles. It is something that has meant a lot to me, since those early childhood memories, and I want it to mean a lot to my children, which is why when we set up the Federation Fund, I was personally pleased to be able to allocate $5 million to make this happen. Because it will actually celebrate one of the key events that made us as a nation. And to be able to bring our children through this display and hear the story of Monash and Blamey, to see the medals, to take it through to the next generation.
I came away from Anzac Cove convinced that this generation of young people will be worthy of the legacy of the original Anzacs. There are 3,800 young Australians, brave men and women of the Australian Defence Force serving as we speak, in peace keeping operations in the Sinai, Jerusalem, Eritrea, Ethiopia, in Bosnia, in the rehabilitation in Iraq, in East Timor and in the Solomon Islands. Inspired by the story and the courage of previous generations, young Australians will I believe take this forward, this story forward, and teach it in time to their children as well, so that the story of Anzac and the men and women of the Australian Defence Force and what they have done will never die. But it will be remembered here, and at thousands of other places around Australia.
This is a great day for the Shrine, for Melbourne, for Victoria and for Australia. This will commemorate and nourish the traditions which will take us forward and it's a great honour and privilege for me to have been part of that and to be here today. Thank you very much.