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Alexander Downer: Anzac Day Speech At Lone Pine

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

Alexander DownerOn this quiet day, it is hard for anyone to comprehend the horrors endured here 86 springs ago. Harder, still, for those of my age and younger, most of whom have been spared the tragedy of war that was the terrible burden of our elders.

And that is why we come to honour the Anzacs, and all the men and women who have followed in that greatest of traditions. To give thanks for their sacrifice, on which the peace and freedom and prosperity of modern Australia is built. To honour their courage, which has inspired succeeding generations to meet their own challenges. To renew our own faith in the unquenchable human spirit, typified by their unflagging humour in the face of grinding hardship. To learn again the true meaning of mateship.

Here was kindled the torch of the Anzac spirit. It has been proudly passed to Australia’s sons and daughters, to those who have struggled and died on fields far from home. Its light was renewed at El Alamein and on the Kokoda Track, at Kapyong and Long Tan.

Now it shines in the dry hills of East Timor – not too different from those around us – where Australian and New Zealand troops are the new custodians of the Anzac tradition. In East Timor those modern-day Anzacs work side by side with colleagues from Turkey, with the common aim of building peace and security in that ravaged land. So it is that, around the world – in Cyprus, in the Middle East, in the South Pacific and in other troubled regions – our peacekeepers place their lives at risk, that so many others may live theirs without fear. This is an effort worthy of the spirit of Anzac.

But the Anzac spirit is greater yet. A group of young men from every State – men with scant concept of nationhood in a Commonwealth less than two decades old – forged a new definition of what it means to be an Australian. Those who died completed the work begun by the fathers of Federation, giving their flesh and blood to the bones of the grand ideal of nationhood.

This is the true legacy of the Anzacs. Its power is felt in the hearts of all Australians, from the oldest to the youngest. And as you young ones here walk amongst these graves, compare your ages to those on the gravestones of these “six-bob-a-day tourists”. Think of the missing – more than half the Australian dead – whose bodies were never identified, or never even found, and who are commemorated at this memorial. Let us all reflect on what they gave to us, and on what we should give to the generations to come.

One of the Anzacs penned the following lines as he lay on the ship evacuating his comrades to Egypt, and thought of his mates left behind:

What, gone? The Australians gone! From Anzac – gone?
The lurid crater where for eight long months,
They lived with death, dined with disease,
Till one in every two fell ill and one
In every four was shot and one
In every eight lay dead.
Yes, gone! From Anzac – gone!
And left behind eight thousand graves.

This is our answer to that Anzac, and all his mates: no, not gone. Never gone from this place. Nor, so long as Australia itself shall last, gone from our hearts, nor from our spirit. Though you, and those who came after, may pass, the Anzac legend shall remain – forever bright, forever honourable, and forever worthy.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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