On 25 April 2015 I will represent the Australian Government at ANZAC Day commemorations in Ypres, Belgium to highlight the importance Australia attaches to honouring sacrifices made on the Western Front during the First World War.
Nearly 13,000 Australians lost their lives in Belgium during the First World War. In Ypres, from August to November 1917, Australia suffered 38,000 casualties – our most costly experience of war.
At Ypres, I will participate in a number of local commemorative events. I will deliver an address at the Buttes New British Cemetery Dawn Service and at the Tyne Cot Cemetery Ceremony in Zonnebeke. I will have the honour of reading the Ode of Remembrance at the Menin Gate ANZAC Day service and deliver a remembrance speech at the Toronto Avenue Cemetery.
To honour Australians who died in Belgium during the First World War the Government of Flanders and the Australian War Memorial have agreed to establish a commemorative garden at the Australian War Memorial. On ANZAC Day I will join the Minister-President of Flanders, Mr Geert Bourgeois, and take samples of soil from Tyne Cot Cemetery. The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, the Hon Michael Ronaldson, who will also visit Belgium in coming days for First World War commemorative activities, will bring the soil back to Australia for the commemorative garden.
Today, as part of ANZAC Day commemorations, I will deliver a speech at the Menin Gate Last Post ceremony. This ceremony has been held every evening since 1928, except for the period of German occupation during the Second World War. It is a moving tribute to the lasting debt of gratitude we all owe to the men who fought and fell in Belgium.
I offer deep appreciation to the people of Ypres for continuing to uphold the memory of fallen Australian service men and women and for maintaining the sites of sacrifice with care and respect.
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