Sunday Mail - - NEWS -

THE gar­dens on North Tce flank­ing Gov­ern­ment House have been trans­formed into a sea of tiny white crosses. They are pow­er­ful memo­ri­als.

They have stood sen­tinel since the be­gin­ning of Novem­ber as a trib­ute to those valiant ser­vice­men and women who made the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice in the ser­vice of our coun­try. This year, the Field of Re­mem­brance is even more poignant as we mark the Cen­te­nary of the Armistice which brought the “war to end all wars” to its end.

Ev­ery day as I pass by, I think deeply of the free­doms our ser­vice­men and women risked their lives to pro­tect for our na­tion. The crosses each have a name and many will be decked with a red poppy. They link us to Gar­dens of Re­mem­brance and memo­ri­als around the world. They are a link to the men and women who lie in graves or rest for­ever in the seas.

We also re­mem­ber those whose rest­ing places in for­eign fields are sadly un­known. Their sac­ri­fices are hon­oured and deeply re­spected. Let us also not for­get those who nursed the sick and wounded and com­forted those who were des­tined to never re­turn home.

To­day, World War I re­mains the costli­est con­flict in terms of deaths and ca­su­al­ties that Aus­tralia has ex­pe­ri­enced. About 34,900 South Aus­tralians en­listed in World War I, rep­re­sent­ing 8.5 per cent of the state’s pop­u­la­tion and more than 35 per cent of the male pop­u­la­tion aged 18 to 44.

A young, en­er­getic band of broth­ers were proud of their uni­form, proud to en­list and proud to serve. More than 5500 South Aus­tralians died in the war. A sense of duty and hon­our was at the heart of their ser­vice. Com­pas­sion con­nected them with those on for­eign fields they didn’t know but were com­mit­ted to de­fend­ing, as they, too, were peo­ple with hopes and dreams.

The val­ues forged on those bat­tle­fields res­onate with us to­day – team spirit, the mate­ship of look­ing out for oth­ers, in­tegrity, the courage to live up to chal­lenges be­fore us, and tenac­ity to see them through. We know, though, that the hu­man cost of war is not only the fallen: it is a cost that is levied on all ser­vice­men and women, on their fam­i­lies and on their com­mu­ni­ties.

On Re­mem­brance Day, we also hon­our those who sus­tained ef­forts on the home front by keep­ing the coun­try and its cit­i­zens func­tion­ing in times of ad­ver­sity.

We live in peace and free­dom to­day be­cause of all of them.

I was priv­i­leged to meet on sev­eral oc­ca­sions Bill Corey, a true gen­tle­man from World War II. Bill was a valiant Rat of To­bruk who fought in El Alamein, New Guinea and in Bor­neo. I wished him well on his 100th birth­day and sadly, I re­cently joined oth­ers to pay trib­ute to him at a fu­neral ser­vice to cel­e­brate his life.

His legacy of ser­vice, courage and sense of com­mu­nity will en­dure. Through his poignant words to thou­sands of school chil­dren and oth­ers, he en­abled peo­ple to value, re­spect and un­der­stand the vi­tal con­tri­bu­tion all ser­vice­men and women make to our coun­try.

His is but one story of ser­vice, hero­ism and courage.

On Re­mem­brance Day, my wife Lan and I will place a cross in the Field of Re­mem­brance and lay a wreath at the Na­tional War Me­mo­rial on North Ter­race.

It is a priv­i­lege to do so. I cher­ish a deep and real per­sonal grat­i­tude to all Aus­tralian ser­vice per­son­nel who served in many con­flicts around the world and con­tinue to do so in ac­tive war zones and in peace­keep­ing and hu­man­i­tar­ian roles.

My own thoughts are in­deli­bly coloured by hav­ing grown up dur­ing the Viet­nam War, and wit­ness­ing its hor­rific de­struc­tion and bru­tal­ity. But I also ex­pe­ri­enced first-hand the gal­lantry and sac­ri­fice of those brave sol­diers who risked their lives to save us and de­fend our free­doms, democ­racy and our way of life. And this is why I have car­ried with me – through­out my life – an un­re­solved debt. A debt of grat­i­tude.

On this solemn day, let us com­mem­o­rate the past, but also hon­our those ser­vice­men and women who are con­tin­u­ing the tra­di­tion that pro­tects us all. Lest we for­get.

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