Alexander Downer: Speech At Gallipoli Anzac Day Dawn Service

This is the text of the speech given by Alexander Downer, Minister for Foreign Affairs, at the Anzac Day Dawn Service, Gallipoli, Turkey.

Alexander DownerThis is a special time. The Dawn Service recalls that earlier dawn, eighty-six years ago, just as the first landings were made at Gallipoli, in the course of a bloody war that engulfed the world.

Gathered here today, to remember those who fought so gallantly on this fateful shore, are representatives from the countries of the soldiers who landed here – Britain, Canada, France, India, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia. And we have gathered here, in peace, with the representatives of former adversaries – Turkey and Germany – whose soldiers fought as courageously as their foes.

Today, all of us are graciously welcomed, as friends, by the Government and people of Turkey. Many Turks have emigrated to my land, Australia. They have become valued citizens in their new home, while still retaining close links with their native land. The Turkish community holds an honoured place in the evolution of Australia’s multicultural society.

Clearly, the world has moved on since the Gallipoli campaign of 1915. But the memory of what happened here has not been lost with the passage of time. A link with this place is good cause for great pride.

For Australians and New Zealanders, this is especially so. The Anzac spirit of friendship that was forged between our two nations at Gallipoli, far away from the shores of the South Pacific that we share, is irrevocable.

Yesterday, in Australia’s national capital, Canberra, the New Zealand Memorial on Anzac Parade was dedicated. The Memorial, which has been generously funded by the New Zealand Government, is a special gift from New Zealand to mark the centenary of Australian federation this year. It recognises the Anzac spirit of friendship that binds us together.

Co-operation between Australia and New Zealand, across many fields of endeavour, gives expression to our enduring sense of partnership, and is grounded on the close intimacy of our people-to-people links. Many citizens of our two nations are attending Anzac Day ceremonies in their suburbs, towns and cities today. All of them are with us in spirit at this special time.

The Anzacs, as we call those Australians and New Zealanders who landed at Gallipoli, created a legend, and left a legacy that continues to inspire us. We are moved by the stories that are told of their time here – for example, by the real humanity and courage of Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick, bringing wounded men down from the lines to the hospital at Anzac Cove on his donkey. We treasure the record they left us – in poetry, diaries, letters home, and drawings too – a record that is rich in its range of emotions, in good humour, and in simple, straightforward eloquence. The Anzacs even produced a book – “The Anzac Book” – from contributions made in the lines at Gallipoli during the closing weeks of 1915, that was published the following year.

A young Australian officer, Lieutenant Richard Casey, landed at Anzac Cove on the first Anzac Day. Like many others, he was wounded here, by shrapnel. Like many others, he saw friends and colleagues killed. Like many others, he bore no personal animosity towards his Turkish adversaries. Like many others, he saw no glamour in the reality of war, writing in his diary on one occasion: “It all seems so hopeless and endless and sordid”.

Mercifully, it did end. Lieutenant Casey was one of the lucky ones who survived, and he went on to become Governor-General of Australia. But he never forgot his war experience. It is evident, from the biographical accounts, that he was scarred by the experience – like many others.

Most of us have not experienced war. We can only dimly imagine what it is like. But we know, as the Anzacs knew, that it is a terrible thing.

The experience of the Gallipoli campaign ended the innocence of Australians abroad. Never again have we entered a situation of armed conflict in a light-hearted spirit of adventure, as did so many of those who enlisted at the outbreak of the First World War. We know that, at times, there will be situations of grave danger that must be faced bravely. We do not seek them out, but we are prepared to face them when we must.

Today, all the nations represented here work together with others to enhance the cause of international peace and security. Most recently, many of us have co-operated to advance the process of bringing peace and stability to East Timor under the auspices of the United Nations. We Australians are particularly grateful for these efforts. Our co-operation in that noble endeavour, and in the broader task of furthering peace in the world, is worthy of the spirit and the legend that was forged here at Gallipoli.

The memory of the sacrifice of those who died in the Gallipoli campaign – no matter who they fought for – reminds us of the dreadful cost of war. Those who perished here died bravely, courageously, overcoming any fear that may have lived in their hearts. They died in vain only if we fail – fail to take renewed courage from their sacrifice, and strengthen our determination to work towards building a more peaceful world in the future.

Yes, indeed, this is a special time. As dawn breaks over these shores, the light overtakes the darkness, and a new day begins. This is a time when all of us can resolve to do something more with our lives – to do something, no matter how small, to help build a more peaceful world. That will be the most fitting tribute to the memory of those who perished here, and a fine legacy to bestow when the passage of time leaves us, too, in its wake.

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