John Key - Speech at the Albany Convoy Commemorations

  • John Key
Prime Minister

Albany Convoy Commemorations

Commemorative Address,

Albany, Western Australia

Your Excellency the Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove,

Prime Minister Tony Abbott,

Distinguished guests,

Members of the Australian and New Zealand Defence Forces,

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls,

I am honoured to be with you today to commemorate a momentous event for our two countries.

From this place 100 years ago, ten ships carrying approximately 8,500 New Zealand troops of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, joined 20,000 troops of the Australian Imperial Force.

Together, they sailed off to fight in a war on the other side of the world.

Major Fred Waite, author of The New Zealanders at Gallipoli, described the scene vividly, saying that as the New Zealanders’ vessels met the Australian fleet,

“The cheering and counter-cheering, the Maori war cries and answering coo-ees would have moved a stoic.

Young Australia was welcoming Young New Zealand in no uncertain manner in the first meeting of those brothers-in-arms soon to be known by a glorious name as yet undreamed of.”

They would, of course, become the ANZACs, and the very first part of their legend was written here in Albany.

Our troops set off with a keen thirst for adventure, driven by a fierce sense of loyalty to their countries’ and their mates, and a steadfast belief in the values and freedoms they sought to defend.

Their enthusiasm for adventure would be matched by the courage of their actions in torrid battlefields far from home.

In a matter of months the Gallipoli offensive would tragically claim the lives of more than 11,000 New Zealand and Australian troops.  Another 24,000 would be wounded. 

And worse battles were to follow in what would come to be known simply as “The Great War”.

Fewer than half of all those who departed our shores would make it home without injury.   Many thousands rest forever in Europe, Turkey, Palestine, and other far-flung battlefields.

In a war that engulfed the world, our young nations were among the hardest hit.  No community, rural or urban, was left untouched by loss.

But the service, and sacrifice, of those who fought for us – would play a critical role in forging our national identities.

Our experiences in the First World War marked an important point in our coming of age as countries.  They made us look at who we were: from colonies, we became nations. 

When we gather together to commemorate the ANZACs we mark no single military battle. 

We remember the sacrifice of our service men and women in many conflicts, and campaigns, far from home.

We give thanks for the privileges that we enjoy today because of the efforts.

And we reflect, soberly, on the cost of war.

In honour of their memories, we affirm our resolve to work for a better world.

We will not forget their service, and growing attendance at ANZAC day services on both sides of the Tasman testifies to this.

The ANZAC spirit remains a critical part of who we are.  It is still defined by those common values that sustained our soldiers fighting in foreign lands 100 years ago: mate-ship, courage, equality, self-sacrifice, and loyalty.

As we look out at the challenges that our countries, and the international community confront today, from the brutality of ISIL and its violent extremist ideology, to the spread of Ebola, or working with our close friends and neighbours in the Pacific, we acknowledge those who continue to serve us - and the courage and dedication of our service people who answer our countries’ call to service.  

We stand here today, and look back to the events of 100 years ago, with pride in those who left these shores to fight for us, and those that followed in their footsteps to other battles far from home.

We will always remember their service to our countries, and the Anzac bond that they forged.