Address at the Anzac Day Dawn Service
The Honourable Malcolm Turnbull AC
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza, New York City
25 April 2022
All around the world on this day, as dawn rises in one place after another, Australians, their friends and allies, are assembling at Dawn Services like this.
On Anzac Day I have been with our young troops on deployment in the Middle East, with old diggers in quiet country towns, and on old battle fields, Gallipoli where the Anzac legend was born and in France where nearly 50,000 Australians were killed in the Great War’s Western Front.
The celebration of Anzac Day often has local idiosyncrasies. At Brontë Beach the Surf Club uses a surf reel as a cenotaph - a reminder perhaps that at the heart of the Anzac story is service, solidarity and courage - all bundled up in what Australians call mateship - hard to define, impossible to miss.
Villers Bretonneux on Anzac Day 2018 - dark and cold and wet. On this gloomy morning we were joined by Edouard Phillipe, the Prime Minister of France, Prince Charles and so many others - Anzacs of today of years past and their families.
A hundred years before, to the day, the German Army’s spring offensive was turned back. Australian troops with their British and French allies fought in the dark to recapture the town on Anzac Day. It was a turning point in the war.
So it was here that it was decided to build an Australian National Monument in austere white stone to honour the men who had fought in the war to end all wars. 11,000 names of Australian dead for whom there is no known grave are carved on its walls.
It was dedicated in 1938.
And the shell damage from the war that began only a year later can still be seen, war’s own grimly ironic inscription on a monument that yearns for peace.
Although its stone was not chipped by enemy artillery the Australian War Memorial in Canberra was likewise built to honour the sacrifice of those Australians who had served and died and bled in the Great War.
It was opened on 11 November 1941, Australia was already at war again, France had fallen, and worse was to come. In three weeks, Japan attacked Pearl Harbour and three months later captured Singapore where 15,000 Australians of the 8th Division became prisoners of war, and only a little more than half of whom would survive the brutality of their captors.
And it is that Australian War Memorial you see, if you fling open all doors of our Parliament, from the Prime Minister’s offices at the southern side of Parliament House, right through the Cabinet Room, the Great Hall and out across Lake Burley Griffin.
For more than eighty years it has looked back at our nation’s leaders, a reminder that all of our freedoms and democratic institutions, depend on the courage and determination of each generation to defend them.
And with equal force, a reminder to those who lead our nation that they must always reject bombast and belligerence and strive to resolve disputes with diplomacy, intelligence, and persistent advocacy and where, as the last resort, we must send our young men and women into harm’s way make sure that they are wisely led, well trained and equipped so that they can, return home safely to their families when their mission is completed.
And when they do not, or when they return diminished in mind or limb we must make sure they and their families have all the help they need.
Because we best honour the diggers of a century and more ago not with grand ceremonies or soaring monuments but by supporting the servicemen and women, veterans and families of today.
Our freedoms have been hard won and every generation must be prepared to fight for them again. There are few parts of Europe more blood soaked than Ukraine. But it had been more than eighty years since bombs rained down on Kiyiv.
And now they are again. Thousands of young Ukrainians, to whom Hitler’s blitzkrieg must have seemed ancient history, are today bravely resisting the Russian invaders just as their great grandparents resisted the Nazis, defending their homeland but standing up for democracy as certainly and courageously as did those we honour today.
And so we are right to support them with arms, with supplies, with money and political support. Slava Ukrayinyi.
To conclude with New York. It was here on USS Intrepid about five years ago that with President Trump we commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea, where the US Navy and the Royal Australian Navy defeated a Japanese armada that, unimpeded, would have taken Port Moresby.
From there Japan would have isolated Australia, taking us out of the war, leaving us to be invaded cut off from our allies. It was touch and go, and only made possible because Japan had established bases in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
A timely reminder, perhaps, that those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.
Lest we forget.