JULIE BISHOP:           Governor Hurley, Tanya Plibersek, Excellencies, distinguished guests, friends, all. Thank you for the very warm welcome to country and for the magnificent performance of ‘The Love of Country’ by Tony.

On this day in 1915 the soldiers of the Australia New Zealand Army Corps stepped foot on the darkened beach of the cliff-strewn peninsula known as Gallipoli. They were thousands and thousands of miles from home. Over the course of the next few months of this bloody and brutal campaign the courage and resilience and mateship that they demonstrated in the face of overwhelming odds was so profound that these qualities became integral to our national story, our national spirit, our national character. The acronym ‘ANZAC’ become synonymous with those qualities around the world.

On this ANZAC Day, 103 years later, in this year, the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, we pay tribute to all Australians who served our nation in defence of freedom. We gather here today in particular to pay tribute to the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders who served this country, for there were thousands and thousands of Indigenous Australians who were part of our effort to defend our nation, defend our way of life, to defend freedom.

Their contribution was not always recognised. Thankfully, mercifully, that has changed and we march together today to honour them, to pay our deepest respects for their service and their sacrifice, in the First and Second World Wars, in Korea and Vietnam, in the Pacific, in the Middle East, in Afghanistan.

There are some extraordinary stories of courage and leadership from our indigenous soldiers. Albert Knight was born in 1894 in rural New South Wales. He enlisted with his two brothers in 1915. In 1916 he was fighting on the Western Front. He was wounded, he was hospitalised many times. In September 1918 he led the Australian attack against the enemy in the French Village of Bony. He was decorated with the distinguished Conduct Medal, he was promoted to Corporeal. In 1919 he found his way home and continued to work back at Bourke until he died in 1973 but not all of them came home.

There is a particularly sad story of Augustus Pegg Farmer. He was a Noongar man from Katanning in Western Australia. He also enlisted in 1915 and fought in Belgium and in France. He was decorated with a Military Medal for gallantry and devotion to duty in the face of fire and he was the first Indigenous soldier to receive that medal. He was tragically killed in action just three months before the end of the First World War. We don’t know where he lies but his name is on the list of the thousands and thousands of Australians with unknown graves on the Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux in France.

The tradition and the legacy carried through to the Second World War - an extraordinary leader, Captain Reg Saunders. He was born in 1920 in Victoria. He enlisted in 1940 and he was the first Indigenous soldier to be a commissioned officer. He showed remarkable leadership in the Middle East, in North Africa and in Papua New Guinea. He was decorated with an MBE in 1971, until his death he was known as one of the great soldiers. He died in 1990.

Today we remember all of the Indigenous soldiers and all the men and women who served, and who are serving today. One of our finest battalions is the 51st Battalion of the Far North Queensland Regiment and 30 per cent of the Battalion’s personnel are drawn from the Indigenous local communities. This Battalion is charged with protecting Northern Australia, a vital task. It can draw its lineage to a Battalion that was first raised in the First World War.

Its motto, the Battalion’s motto is: ‘Ducit Amor Patriae’, that’s Latin. In English it’s: ‘The love of country that leads me’. How very apt for that to be the motto, it’s: ‘The love of country that leads me’, for the Indigenous Australians love of country inspires us all.

Lest we forget.

Media enquiries

  • Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555