Sacrifice: 2015 Anzac Day Address

25 April 2015

Below is the text of my Anzac Day address, given at this year's inaugural Dawn Service at Hallett Cove. Lest we forget.

Sacrifice: a word; an act; a complex and fear-filled reality.

The meaning of sacrifice is so simple, yet so hard to truly grasp.

It is to give up one thing to ensure something that is of greater value.

But dig deeper, beyond the stories of war and heroes; and into the eyes of our troops in those faded photographs; into their stories and into the soil beneath the battlefields; dig deeper and that sacrifice becomes almost unfathomable.

War is not good. It is not something to be glorified. We can be proud of our heroes and remember their victories, but we cannot glorify or romanticise their sacrifice.

War is filled with pain and anguish; it is littered with bad decisions; selfishness and greed. It is a tragedy wrought by human hands.

Gallipoli did not last for a single day. It dragged on and on, spluttering through eight cruel months. In the first day, 2,000 died; eight months on more than 8,000 had laid down their lives.

19,000 more were wounded. Fit, vibrant men, many left permanently disabled and disfigured. Young men trapped forever in old bodies.

Most in the crowd this morning will, like me, never have served in the armed forces. We can only try to understand what that sacrifice is all about. To those who have served, we say a grateful thank you.

For all of us it is difficult to imagine serving in 1915.

How can we understand the bravery; the uncertainty; the sludge; the tyranny of distance; the loneliness; the broken hearts and broken bones; crushed hopes; cold, cold, cold nights.

The fruitlessness of it all.  One step forward, two steps back.

They sailed forth, then jumped; they waded through the surf. A momentary reminder of those sun-drenched beaches left behind. Before memories were snuffed by the reality that lay before them.

They came from these cloistered hills that slide down to the sea. Here they farmed sheep and dug mines; they grew orchards and nurtured vines.

For King and country, whatever that easy cliché meant to this embryonic, peaceful nation. They did their bit with loyalty and fortitude.

Adventure turned to hesitation, to fear, to anguish, to trauma and death.

And so we gather to commemorate.
Not glorify.
To bow our heads.
Not wave flags.
To honour.
Not celebrate.

And above all, we give quiet thanks.

For their sacrifice.