In our commemoration of ANZAC Day this year, the keynote address at the Dawn Service was to have been presented by Berrima resident Air Commodore Bob Rodgers AM CSM, Royal Australian Air Force.
In the absence of a Dawn Service in the Berrima War Memorial Garden this year, we present this address for each of us to reflect on as we commemorate the sacrifice of our Servicemen and Women.
” I acknowledge and value the stewardship of our first Australians, whose land we share here in Berrima and who loved this land and what it represented long before European habitation.
On the 25th of April, every year in my lifetime, all Australians and New Zealanders have come together as a nation to recognise not just a group of men who undertook a clearly difficult and important operation in 1915, but to recognise all those men and women who have served in the many wars that have followed and who still serve today. It was in the maelstrom of Gallipoli that two nations with strongly shared values grew close through shared loss and national experience. Our two nations have shared the challenges we have faced and our men and women have stood shoulder to shoulder over so many decades.
These men and women in uniform have sacrificed. They fought for, and with, their countrymen. They have shown resilience and they enacted their sense of duty to their country. Yes, these are people and attributes that deserve our ongoing recognition. Generations face different challenges, and it is how each generation reacts to those challenges for which they are remembered. Rightly, on this day we focus on the contribution of all those who have served at sea, land or air and whose sacrifices reflected their belief in what was important. Too many made the ultimate sacrifice, so many wounded, injured, mentally scarred or who have had their freedoms restricted through their duty.
As an ex-serving member who has undertaken operational service and devoted 35 years of my life to the military and through that, my country, I feel the need to reflect on a broader sense of service to others that underpins what this day is about.
Today, I cant constrain my thoughts or recognition only to those who have served in the uniform of our nations in the last 100 plus years. Why? Because I see the same attributes and values that we acknowledge on this day being reflected in the actions of so many fellow Australians (and of course New Zealanders), in so many walks of life. Service comes in many forms.
The last quarter of 2019 and all of 2020 thus far has seen us challenged as a nation, as families and as individuals. Early in this year we saw our local men and women of the RFS place themselves in harms way to save people and property and do this day in and day out for months. What we witnessed was commitment to others, commitment to each other as a team, we saw incredible resilience and so much sacrifice for their neighbours. Many of them are still processing their feelings or recovering from injuries from this deeply affecting experience. Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, were missing at key family occasions as they fought for others. Sadly, some of these volunteers also made the ultimate sacrifice for their community.
And now, COVID 19. So many health professionals and health support people who interact with the sick are throwing themselves into the furnace in ways that deeply reflect the spirit of duty and care for others that drove our forebears up a beach in Gallipoli. They also risk death and long term damage from their duty every day. And we must recognise the grinding constancy of this demand being made on them. Their resilience and dedication is unquestionable.
So many walks of life are now essential, and this means they too must expose themselves to risks that many of us will not have to. And those of us who aren’t at the frontline of this fight, or engaged in sustaining the essentials of our culture and society, our sacrifice is the freedoms of movement and choice that will also save so many fellow Australians. This is duty…a sense of duty to others over self.
This experience we are all going through now is a crucible for each of us and for what our nation will be in the future. Sadly, we have seen those that don’t reflect the behaviours and beliefs we value, but we have also seen the majority of us who have and will accept risk and loss of freedoms for the betterment of all. This sounds a lot like the ANZAC spirit to me.
I am unshakeably certain and proud in my belief that as a nation we are, and will continue to reflect the fellowship, compassion, sacrifice and resilience that other generations before us have had to exemplify and which we normally recognise together on ANZAC Day. Let us strive to have those that come after us to look back on how we, as a nation, navigated the uncertainties of our current experience. Let our goal be for our children, grandchildren and even their children’s children to recognise that our generations sacrifice, fellowship, compassion and resilience created an Australia that they are proud of in the decades and century ahead.
Yes, this year we should privately commemorate this important part of our culture. We should go out onto our driveways as the sun rises on the 25th of April, and yes we should recognise those that have served their nation in our past, but let’s also recognise those attributes that our forebears represented that so many Australians are exhibiting today. Military service was the originating premise for ANZAC Day, but I believe deeply that it is fundamentally about the beliefs and behaviours that we have shared and will share as a nation. Our armed forces, our police, our health personnel, our volunteers in emergency services…every Australian or New Zealander who sacrifices a freedom for their neighbour and their community all warrant recognition in terms of sustaining the values that underpin ANZAC Day and the spirit it embodies.
On ANZAC Day we recognise all those who have and will sacrifice for us but it is also a reaffirmation of what we believe and what we want to be as two nations bound by shared experience and values.
On this day we reflect proudly on who we were, we celebrate who we are and we commit to who we will be.”
“gulambununyi yarwan wandiny gulambununyi yarabi naraganawali”
“e kaha ake ana tatou ka haere tahi tatou”
“we are stronger when we walk together”
Air Commodore AM CSM
Royal Australian Air Force