Remarks, Last Post Ceremony

PRIME MINISTER: We meet here today on the land of the Ngunnawal People and we acknowledge their elders past, present and emerging. I also acknowledge here today the serving men and women of our Australian Defence Forces and any veterans who are present here today. I simply say thank you for your service.

We gather in the most sacred location in our Commonwealth. Madame Parly, who I welcome today, it’s wonderful to have you with us on this important occasion. A century ago, the families of the 60,000 men and women who died in the First World War had no place to mourn. For many, it was almost impossible to imagine heading to France or Gallipoli or to Egypt. So this hallowed place became where Australians would mourn and remember those who were lost.

Today many of our Members and Senators are gathered here for the Last Post. We do so to remind ourselves that our affiliation is first to our country. Tomorrow, the chambers, halls and corridors of Parliament House will spring to life again, with the resumption of a new parliamentary year. But in this moment, we stand together, quiet and aligned. The founders of this capital ensured that the Australian War Memorial was built in a direct line of sight with the Parliament. It was done so to remind every single member that no decision should be taken lightly and that some decisions exact an incalculable cost. No cost runs deeper than the loss of life inflicted by war. The freedoms and values that Australians hold dear, the right to debate and determine our destiny in that House across the lake, have been hard-fought and hard-won, through courage, mateship, sacrifice and endurance.

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Gallipoli, Kokoda, Long Tan, Uruzgan, the skies over Germany, the waters of the Pacific. The names of these places are etched, written on these walls. But there is one that we particularly remember today; in September 1941, Sister Alma May Beard left Australia for Singapore, with the other gallant nurses of the 13th Australian General Hospital. She never came home. Her fate was one of the most cruel and barbaric of any man, woman or child who perished in that war. An evacuee on the Vyner Brooke who escaped drowning when it was bombed, only to be captured, held prisoner and then slaughtered on the beach. A nurse, whose only motivation was to help and care for others. It is right that we remember her, and tell her story today. Her story, like all the others, kept here in this sacred place, speaks to us of how much has been laid down. We owe every member of our armed forces past and present our gratitude for their commitment to act in our name. Here, the parliamentarians who have gathered, are reminded of our great responsibility. We remember, and we dedicate ourselves once again to this country that we love and those who have served and lost so much.

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Lest we forget.

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