Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Speech - Youth in Australia - 1913 and 2013

Youth in Australia - 1913 and 2013
Coorparoo Secondary College
24 April 2013 

So what does ANZAC day mean for us? Already nearly 100 years past.

What does ANZAC day mean for Australia’s future and what does it mean for your future?

Because you, as the young women and men of Australia, you are our future.

Let’s pause just for one moment to reflect. And in your mind’s eye, in your imagination, reflect for a moment on what this community was like 100 years ago.

Like today this was a thriving community back then. Many of the public buildings, houses and shops that you see around this part of the world where there back then as well. It was also teaming with young people just like you. Walking to school, learning a trade, starting their first jobs at the local stores.

Picture yourself 100 years ago in 1913 as a young 17 year old, many of you are of that age today, full of hopes and dreams for your future, already with eyes on your first sweetheart.

A year later, after a political thunderbolt on the other side of the world, the world turned upside down and your world was turned upside with it. Because at 18 you are old enough to sign up. All your mates are signing up, in fact some are signing up at 17, some are signing up at 16 and falsifying their ages and the young women are enrolling as nurses to help tend the wounded on the other side of the world.

Picture again the same scene in this same community 5 years later, in 1919, at the end of the war to end all wars. Hundreds of local lads here from Coorparoo, from Balmoral, from South Brisbane, form East Brisbane simply did not come home. Hundreds, a little like the number that you see in this hall here today, alive and full hope and promise and opportunity and now lying dead on the other side of the world. Tended still to this day on in the fields of ANZAC Cove, the fields of Flanders, and the fields of France.

Think also of the thousands who came home who were never the same again, with arms missing, with legs missing, with sometimes terrible facial injuries and those whose memories were haunted by what they saw and what they heard on the battlefields of France and in Turkey.

Picture yourself as one of them, if you can, it’s hard but think for a bit, because they were just like you, each and every one of you. They were not numbers and they are not just statistics. They were not names and they are not names simply listed on a cenotaph or memorial when you walk past one, here in our local community. No, these were real young lives, like each one of you folks here today.

So the question for us this ANZAC day as we ask ourselves what does ANZAC day mean nearly 100 years on is why? Why on earth did they do it? Why on earth did they do it? I would leave you with three simple thoughts as I try to enter the minds of young people a hundred years ago.

The first is simple but it is complex. It is a basic deep love for this place, that we celebrate and that we call Australia. The nation had barely been in existence for a dozen years at that time. Yet in the hearts and minds of locals here this was something to do in Australia’s name because they loved this country called Australia.

The second is related but different. They also saw that they were standing up for the values for which Australia stands. Those values have been constant these last hundred years, and what are they?

Values of freedom, your ability to go and choose the life that you choose without interference from others, values of a fair go for all, values which we as Australians have always concluded do not simply stop at the continental shelf of Australia, because they are values for the world. That’s the second reason. Freedom and fair go for all.

And the third reason that they did it was that it was a sheer naked reflection of their courage as young Australians. There’s something quite raw about courage, physical courage, putting yourself in harm’s way for others, the story that we were told this morning about the young man in Afghanistan who had lost his legs. But sheer naked courage not to simply say in our heart of hearts and in our mind of minds, yes Australia, yes the values for which Australia stands and someone else a can go and do the work but no, adding that third and vital part: I too will go in stand in harm’s way to defend Australia and the values for which it stands.

These are great values for you. They are great values for me. They are great values for all of us who call ourselves Australians.

Lest we forget.


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