EVERY year on the first Wednesday of September we commemorate the Battle for Australia and acknowledge the bravery of all those who served on the home front protecting our shores during the Second World War.
Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said Battle for Australia Day is an important reminder of a challenging time for the nation between 1942–45.
“Battle for Australia Day commemorates the first time in the history of European settlement that Australia came under attack, and recognises those who served in defence of the Australian mainland, and in land, air and sea battles in the Coral Sea, Papua and New Guinea, in actions that stopped the Japanese southward advance,” Mr Chester said.
“On 19 February 1942, during Japanese air raids on Darwin, around 250 Australians and personnel from other nationalities died on Australian soil. In 1942 and 1943, other areas of northern Australia also suffered air raids including an attack on Broome in which Dutch refugees were killed.”
The Battle of the Coral Sea, the action often described as the battle that saved Australia, took place on 4–8 May 1942 in the waters southwest of the Solomon Islands and east of New Guinea, and while no Australians were killed during the naval battle, the United States aircraft carrier USS Lexington was sunk.
“Nineteen Australians and two British sailors also died when Japanese Midget submarines launched a surprise attack on Sydney Harbour in May 1942 and sunk HMAS Kuttabul,” Mr Chester said.
“Thousands of Australians were engaged in actions against Japanese forces during the Battle for Australia, including those who fought to drive off attacks against the Australian mainland. Today we remember their sacrifice and thank them for their service. Without their efforts the impact on our nation could have been far worse and the course of the war might have been very different.”
The Minister will attend a ceremony at the Australian War Memorial tomorrow laying a wreath on behalf of the Australian Government.
Today also commemorates 80 years since then Prime Minister Robert Gordon Menzies announced the beginning of Australia’s involvement in the Second World War. Around a million Australians served in the war in Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa, south-east Asia, and the Pacific.