Gratitude: 2014 Anzac Day Address

25 April 2014

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

I have not been to war and I have never trained for war.

Sometimes I feel unworthy to be at events like this, standing alongside veterans whose service and bravery surpass anything I know, anything I could imagine.

But stand here I do. And I do so freely.

I stand here enjoying the freedom of speech, the freedom of faith, the freedom of political persuasion, the freedom to be who I want to be.

I stand here freely and proudly because over this country's short history men and women have stepped up to serve, they've gone to war. Some came back. Some didn't come back. All made sacrifices and Australia is great because of them.

That sacrifice, big or small, demands our gratitude.

Today is not a celebration. Not a glorification. Not about romanticising. Not about flag waving.

This Anzac Dawn Service is about remembrance. It's about solemn commemoration. And for those who, like me, have not gone to war, it is surely about gratitude.

No sane person wants war. No good person embraces war. Our nation's history is dappled with involvement in wars which were futile and wars which were less futile.

2014 marks exactly a century since events far far away in Europe trigged the Great War. One of the hardest, cruelest wars.

The assassination of a minor European royal, the heir to a seemingly irrelevant throne, became the catalyst for a diplomatic crisis which turned bloody and rapidly sucked in all the world's great economic powers and their imperial offspring.

Australia – young and distant – full of energy and promise, found itself offering up its young, to travel to distant places, to fight a war few really understood.

Yet Australia played a proud and pivotal role in the Great War, our diggers fought valiantly and often strategised cleverly. Like we have done, in World War 2, in Korea, in Vietnam, in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

Today we remember the Great War and the conflicts since.

Today is a day to remember the individuals who stood in the dank, filthy trenches: feet rotting, lungs aching, lives dissipating.

Today is a day to focus on the families torn apart, loved ones separated forever, bodies never returned.

Today is a day to remember the injured, those who returned with their bodies smashed and their minds forever altered.

We have not come here this morning to glorify the horrors of war; we have come here to silently, sadly, humbly reflect on the great sacrifice paid for us by people who we may not have known, but whose legend lives on because we owe them our freedom.

In his poem, The Australian, W.H. Ogilvie described our Anzac heroes as the 'bravest thing God ever made.' For one moment let's imagine what they went through and Ogilvie's words seem like an understatement:

The bravest thing God ever made.

We remember them this morning as the sun rises on this South Australian day – and as we leave this idyllic place, to go about our daily lives, let us remind ourselves why we are free, why we are democratic, why we are still smiling.

And let us have gratitude.