Can I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of this land, the Boon Wurrung peoples of the Kulin nation, and pay my respect to their elders past, present and emerging.
I’d also like to pay a special tribute to those thousands of Indigenous soldiers who, even decades before they were recognised as citizens of this nation, served in our armed forces in both World Wars and in our conflicts abroad since.
Can I acknowledge and thank my friend Martin Foley, the Member for Albert Park and the Minister for Health who’s helped to organise and support this event over many years before my election.
And can I also acknowledge Lt Col Sandeep Jadhav who is also speaking today.
Finally I want to thank and acknowledge the Port Melbourne community for gathering here today for this very special ANZAC Day commemoration.
It is very special and meaningful that we are able to gather today around Victoria and Australia to remember the sacrifice and service our brave ANZACs have given this nation throughout its history.
Of course, last year, ANZAC Day like everything else in our calendar looked very different.
We couldn’t gather in person and we instead remembered our ANZACs and commemorated their service from home.
So it is especially meaningful that we can gather again this year at this very special ANZAC ceremony on these historic beaches.
Very close to here of course over a century ago, thousands of Victorians set off in the First Convoy to fight in the Great War,
Those ANZACs departed from all three Port Melbourne Piers – Town Pier, New Railway Pier (now known as Princes Pier); and Railway Pier (now known as Station Pier).
And many of those who returned arrived back at Princes Pier again.
On ANZAC Day, we remember that service that Port Melbourne locals and all Victorians, Australians and of course New Zealanders made to those efforts.
We salute their service, the selflessness of their sacrifice, but we also acknowledge the tolls that that service brings.
We celebrate our ANZACs, but we do not celebrate the wars they were forced to serve in.
Wars are a failure of the international order. They are a failure of peace.
Wars are sadly sometimes necessary, but they are a last resort.
And the tolls they cause on those who serve in them are immense.
So many do not return home at all.
And we see far too often that those who come back home carry a mental, emotional and physical toll that will never leave them.
More Australian veterans have taken their own life in the last 20 years – the span of our presence in Afghanistan – than have been killed in active duty.
On average, one veteran takes their own life in Australia every two weeks.
That should horrify us all.
That these people go and fight for our country and come back to a country where they don’t know where to turn.
And we need to fight for them.
We need to fight to ensure they get the support they need to readjust to civilian life.
No returned solider should be struggling so much – whether emotionally, mentally, physically or even financially – that they are forced to consider taking their own lives.
The crisis that is veterans’ suicide has led to a sustained campaign from those who lost friends, family and comrades to suicide for a Royal Commission into Veteran Suicide.
The tireless activism of people like Julie-Ann Finney, whose son Dave took his own life after serving in Iraq, Timor and Bougainville.
And that tireless activism, this week, was finally acknowledged when the Government announced that Royal Commission.
We needed to listen to them. We needed to heed their call.
Honouring the service of our ANZACs means doing better for them when they return.
A Royal Commission is the least we can do – and it also needs to be followed by action.
Acknowledging the problem and giving it the attention it deserves really is the least we can do. The most we can do is to enact reform so those who return from serving our nation do not return to a nation that fails to support them properly.
I want to also acknowledge that the last few weeks and indeed recent months have not been easy ones for our current serving and returned soldiers.
The allegations that have come out about the behaviour of some who have served our nation have shocked us all.
But we know that they are not representative of the ANZAC spirit.
We know that they are not representative of the commendable service that so many Australian men and women have made over the course of our nation’s history.
We also know that wars put our soldiers in unenviable situations, forced to confront very traumatic and difficult situations and circumstances.
In that light, it’s fitting that as we gather this week, it was announced just last week that those final Australian soldiers serving in Afghanistan will return home this year.
We think of the 41 who won’t be returning home.
And we pledge that for those who are, in the memory of their fallen comrades, we will strive to make this country a more welcoming and supportive one for them.
That we won’t allow the scourge of veteran suicide to continue without action.
Thank you to everyone who has gathered here this morning.
Lest We Forget.