I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, the muwinina people.
Members of State and Federal Parliaments, Lord Mayor of the City of Hobart.
President of the RSL, Tasmania Branch, and the respected personnel of our defence services, both returned and serving, who are here today.
We do come together today, as a nation, to not only remember the first ANZACs, but also to pay our respect to those who have served and died in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations since.
But it was the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War that has become central to our nation’s self-image.
As the Australian War Memorial records; “Although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives, the actions of Australian and New Zealand forces during the campaign left a powerful legacy. What became known as the “Anzac legend” became an important part of the identity of both nations, shaping the ways in which they viewed both their past and their future.”
Anzac Day does indeed go beyond the anniversary of the landings at Gallipoli in 1915, to what we call the ‘spirit of Anzac’ and our sense of national identity.
And this is something we also celebrate on this day, each year: what it means to be Australian, and the shaping of our country that the ANZACS fought for.
On the first anniversary the nature of the ANZAC Day commemorations were, like our emerging national identity, still a little uncertain, and included a variety of events across the country ranging from triumphant parades to solemn services, impromptu ceremonies, and sporting carnivals.
As the war continued ANZAC Day was used as an opportunity to harness patriotism at public rallies, and for recruiting campaigns. From 1927, every state observed some form of public holiday on ANZAC Day, and more ordered services were followed, reflecting an appropriately solemn observance of not only the War that was to end all wars, but also sadly of World War II, and the many other conflicts that have followed.
But by the time of our involvement in the Vietnam War, and perhaps it was a reflection of a country then in conflict with itself, ANZAC Day attendances reached a low point and contemporary songwriter Eric Bogle even anticipated that ‘someday no one will march at all’.
However, in recent years ANZAC Day has drawn record numbers, and it is now impossible to imagine there never being ANZAC Day marches. ANZAC Day has perhaps never been more relevant.
Yes, it’s a day when we reflect on the events of over a hundred years ago, but so often ANZAC Day also reflects Australia today; our values and our aspirations. ANZAC was, and is, defining of our nation.
And so it is that in 2018 across the country, women will be front and centre of today’s services.
Women have, of course, for a long time been a significant part of our defence effort, and have served in our armed forces since 1899. In World War I over two thousand women served as nurses or medical workers.
It is reported that “women beat a path to the doors of the authorities, begging to be allowed to assist, to help win the war, to give of their talents”.
Their selfless and proud contribution is beyond question, but our proper recognition of it sadly is not.
While seven women received the Military Medal for bravery under fire during WWI, and some died from injuries and disease, they were not always formally acknowledged by the Australian Imperial Force at the time, and many were not recommended for bravery awards, despite their heroism.
They often even had to pay their own way to be part of the effort, and weren’t recognised in the same way as their male counterparts when they came home.
A common misconception is that they were kept from harm’s way, safely tending to the injured far from the line of fire. But the truth is, often they were right in the middle of it.
Sister Alice Ross King wrote about working amidst a barrage one night at a casualty station in Messines in 1917 that they could hear nothing for the roar of the planes and artillery fire, and where patients around them were being blown to bits.
Wartime experience had a lasting impact on many nurses, many declared medically unfit on discharge, unable to properly return to civilian life after the stresses of war. And they continued to earn lower rates of pay than male soldiers.
Women have since formed part of ADF deployments across the world, including in conflict zones since the 1990s.
The ADF acknowledges diversity is crucial to enhancing our defence capability, but while there has been an expansion in the number of positions available to women there has only been limited growth in the number of permanent female defence personnel. And women occupy fewer well-remunerated positions and ranks than men.
But even today, in our Australia, it is a great shame to hear that many female defence personnel do not feel that their efforts are fully recognised. That there are still misconceptions, and prejudices about the role of women in our defence services.
That they’ve felt doubts – or even disbelief – that they could be worthy of wearing the medals they’ve been awarded for their service. That they have to ‘prove their service.’ That some have even felt unable to attend ANZAC Day services because of it.
Despite many gains, and how far our nation has come in a hundred years; there is still so much more that needs to be done. ANZAC Day 2018 reflects this.
It right that today we are paying greater recognition to women for their service, as they lead marches across the country.
This is reflecting a nation that wants for a better future; the future that the ANZACs were fighting for.
It is perhaps the greatest honour to those who were at Gallipoli in April1915, and for all those in conflicts since, that on ANZAC Day we also reflect on what it means to be Australian, and how we can shape our nation for the better.
That is the true ANZAC spirit.
Lest we forget.