Today we gather in remembrance. We gather to remember the day Australia and the world emerged from 6 years of darkness.
‘The war is over’. 4 simple words from Prime Minister Chifley that triggered an outpouring of joyous celebration.
Our forebears rejoiced in the street. The celluloid images of a man skipping down Martin Place will forever capture the euphoria of a nation at peace.
It was the end of a war that would threaten our country for the first time, and change it forever. The time of our greatest peril and our greatest generation.
Among them was my grandfather.
In 1942 he was eighteen years old. Not old enough to vote, but old enough to know his country needed him. At Milne Bay he was hit by mortar fire and evacuated to Townsville. He was one of the lucky ones. 373 others never returned home.
The Battle of Milne Bay ranks as one of our finest hours. It was the first defeat of the previously invincible Japanese army.
At the same time a battle raged along the Kokoda Trail. It is now the stuff of legend.
One of the men who fought along the Kokoda Track was Bruce Kingsbury. He was a real estate agent from Melbourne. In a place called Isurava he became a hero.
Outnumbered and about to be over run he grabbed a bren gun and charged into the enemy, mowing down everything in his path. His actions earned him the first Victoria Cross on Australian territory. As he stopped to reload his weapon he was hit and killed by a sniper’s bullet.
Some have speculated that if Kingsbury had not acted his battalion would have been destroyed allowing the Japanese to march on Port Moresby. His commanding officer said it could be argued that his actions saved Australia.
We are indebted to men like Bruce Kingsbury and thousands like him at Kokoda, Milne Bay, on the Coral Sea, on the home front and throughout the Pacific.
We are also indebted to the American forces who stood beside them.
Together they halted the spread of evil, helped liberate the countries of our region. And they saved Australia. This would be a very different place today, if they had not prevailed.
We live in a better world because of them. A world our parents and our grandparents dreamt of.
And it is with great pride, and a sense of privilege, that we gather here today to remember this and all that they achieved for us.