I pay respect to the muwinina people, the original custodians of this land.
I acknowledge members of Federal and State Parliaments, and Local Government. State President of the RSL Tasmania Branch and respected members of the Australian Defence Force, ex-service men and women and your families
On this day we remember a point in time, 99 years ago, that marks the end of a conflict they thought would be over in just a few months. It lasted for over four years.
It claimed the lives of over 60,000 Australians. 2,432 were Tasmanians. 2,432 of more than 15,000 Tasmanians who bravely enlisted to serve their nation during World War One.
They left a Tasmania that was very different to the one we know now. Not long a sovereign state, it was home to just 200,000 people. Tasmanians who had overwhelmingly voted in favour of becoming an independent, sovereign state; an equal part of our young nation’s federation.
Back then, government high schools were only just opening. A maternity hospital in Hobart had been built.
Laws had just passed to set a minimum wage, and maximum 48 hour working week. Legislation had not yet been passed to allow women to stand for election to the House of Assembly, though they had recently been allowed to vote. Our hydroelectric schemes were being built. Daylight saving was introduced, itself a consequence of wartime.
And in 1914 our first troops left to fight in World War One. They were typically unskilled, untrained, and unaware of what they were getting into. But they were Tasmanians. Part of a small, closely connected island community. Perhaps not entirely unfamiliar from what we still cherish today. We are a closely connected community.
They were fathers, sons, brothers, uncles. Thomas Hodgman was my father’s great uncle, and, as it happens, the first Hodgman to be elected to the Tasmanian Parliament. Their three sons - Harry, Douglas and Alan - went to war.
Private Harry Hodgman was just 23 years old when he landed at Gallipoli - at Anzac Cove on the 25th April 1915. He was shot through the head by a sniper and was buried at Lone Pine Cemetery in Turkey. His brother Alan was killed in action at Messines in Belgium in 1917. Frank was injured in battle in 1917, and was returning home aboard a transport ship which was lost at sea. Three lives cut short, like so many. A family torn apart, like so many.
Tasmania is a very different place to what it was like in 1917, but our feelings of gratitude, respect, and honour for those men and women who serve our country remains.
And it is strengthened and sustained at important services like the one we are at today, at this enduring monument, nearby to an eternal flame of remembrance. This Cenotaph was not here until 1925. Built to commemorate those Tasmanians lost in World War One. It now rightly reflects other conflicts in which Tasmanians have served, it is one of 1,000 war memorials across our State.
It is the site on which we gather to commemorate Remembrance Day. When the guns on the Western Front fell silent after more than four years of continuous, bloody warfare that involved 65 million people. Over eight million did not return home. Even in today’s world, that figure is utterly incomprehensible.
We remember them. We honour their service, their courage and their sacrifice; and that of their families who suffered while they were away in a conflict few could comprehend. As the Australian War Memorial reflects, the impact of war was acutely felt in our community which grieved for the loss of so many men.
Women increasingly assumed the physical and financial burden of caring for families. Today we remember that it was also mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts who volunteered for service.
They served in auxiliary roles; nurses, cooks, interpreters, munitions workers. Our nurses served in Egypt, France, Greece and India; often in trying conditions or close to the front, where they were exposed to shelling and aerial bombardments and outbreaks of disease. We remember their contribution equally.
It was also then a period of great political and social tension, which increased as the conflict continued. Social divisions grew, reaching a climax in the bitterly contested and unsuccessful conscription referendums of 1916 and 1917.
When the war ended, thousands of ex-servicemen and women, many disabled with physical or emotion wounds had to be reintegrated into society, keen to consign war to the past and resume normal life.
It was indeed a time that tested our young nation. It was a different time, and a different Tasmania. Many of those connections remain, and sadly our involvement in conflict did not end then. It continues today.
We think of those who are currently serving, and their families. We remember all those lost to war, and give thanks for their brave, valiant service in defence of our nation and the Tasmania we are most fortunate to call home today.
Lest we forget.