25 April 2014
Anzac Day address by Jonathan Kenna, Chargé d’Affaires a.i.
Commonwealth War Cemetery, Kanchanaburi, Thailand
Firstly, to Mr Milton Fairclough, Mr Neil MacPherson and Mr Harold Martin – we are honoured to be here in your company.
Veterans, families and supporters of veterans.
New Zealand’s Ambassador, Mr Tony Lynch; Ambassadors from Britain and Canada, our Thai hosts and friends; ladies and gentlemen.
Like some others here, I have no direct experience of war.
I don’t carry the memories, scars and burdens borne by our veterans, and their loved ones.
And though the world remains today a place where conflict is still rife and threats still loom, I – and perhaps others too – can take the peace and prosperity we have experienced all too easily for granted.
But to look out now on the silent rows of headstones that surround us; or to stand at dawn in Hellfire Pass in the presence of men who lived through its atrocities, is to understand afresh the depth of the debt we owe.
So today we come together to honour the service men and women of Australia and New Zealand, past and present, who have faced the cruelties of war and delivered to us the blessings of peace.
We pay tribute to the loyalty of our allies and friends, many of whom are represented here, who have shared our burdens in operations, conflicts and wars across the globe and across the generations.
We reflect on the carnage that commenced 99 years ago on the shores of Gallipoli, and the unshakeable bonds forged between Australia and New Zealand in that terrible campaign.
And we stand here today as witnesses to the sufferings of another war; of young lives shattered on the Thai-Burma Railway – prisoners of war and hundreds of thousands of Asian labourers alike - who endured the same abuses, died the same deaths.
We mourn the fallen - long years of love and talent lost, of potential unrealised, of generations unborn.
And we extend our hearts to the families who bear the burdens and grief for loved ones damaged or lost in war.
The accounts of Gallipoli, or the Thai- Burma railway, and of many other campaigns, reveal much about humanity. In these events, it is ordinary people who prove themselves extraordinary; who show - even in the most desperate of times - a stubborn, illuminating humanity.
The rest of us here today, all us other ordinary people, can draw strength from this: about our capacity to endure hardship, to tap our reserves of compassion, to have the strength to stand up, not just for ourselves but for others.
So underneath all that goes on today, the ceremony, speeches, the remembering and emotion, we draw a simple, unadorned truth: that tyranny has no power over the courage and decency of ordinary men and women.
This truth is a powerful and precious gift of Anzac Day, as relevant in peace as to war, to our personal as to our national values, to our future as to our past.
We stand here in homage to the Veterans and others whose humanity shines through their suffering and sacrifice. May our choices honour their example.
Lest we forget.