That same spirit carried the Aussie Digger into WW11, the Malay campaign, Borneo and Korea. The Aussie soldier became legendry for his gallantry and loyalty even when blatantly ignoring snobbish officialdom. The larrikin spirit of convict ancestry then, as now, stood tall. The ANZAC Spirit was re-created in stark reality on the Kokoda track.
The Vietnam War and later the Middle East conflicts changed the way wars are fought. No longer did a uniform designate a combatant or enemy. The enemy could be a pregnant woman, or a woman carrying a bomb
instead of a baby – a boy with a pocketful of pebbles or grenades. Vietnam changed the face of war.
Today in Afghanistan even more has the face of war changed - no lines on a map, no actual battle front, no recognisable enemy - yet despite all that: courage and compassion still marked the resolute spirit of the Aussie soldier. I spoke with one of my grandnephews on leave from Afghanistan: he itched to return because he was part of a team - he depended on his mates and his mates depended on him. Another of my great nephews also in Afghanistan but home for his wedding spoke in similar terms. I am so proud of them. What came out of our conversations was what Chris Masters in the Sunday Telegraph last Sunday wrote in his column - he spoke of “the mix of wisdom, responsibility and restraint that characterises the Aussie soldier of today”. This is a maturing of the ANZAC Spirit distilled by the exigencies of modern warfare. Major General John Cantwell, in the same article, is quoted as saying “there is something about the Aussie character that is suited to things soldiers are asked to do” - It is the spirit of ANZAC.
While there are many reasons for aggression, the military defence of freedom becomes a tragically necessary response. It is not just a defence of property - it is a defence of a threatened way of life. Australians have fought in so many wars on many lands – from the streets of Darwin, the Coral Sea and North Queensland to the jungles of New Guinea and Borneo and Malaya to the battle grounds of Europe, North Africa, South East Asia and Japan, to the desert sands of the Persian Gulf - such a long list over many years, and so many left behind in marked and unmarked graves, and on the floor of many oceans - all fought and died for the same cause: Freedom. Those qualities of wisdom, responsibility and restraint, working beside a mate, were exercised because we Aussies have a
respect for the value of human life - we understand the real threat to the dignity of our fellow man.
On ANZAC Day we celebrate, with tremendous pride, the men and women of the Australian Defence Forces - they serve with pride and dignity as sons and daughters of ANZAC. They have a job to do, and they do it courageously and skilfully. But, they cannot do it alone.
Today’s soldiers fight a battle that is as much ideological as it is territorial. The battle for the mind and heart rages across the world, not just on foreign soil. We have seen it in New York, in London, in Madrid, in Boston. We almost saw it here when a threat to the Sydney Lucas Hts Nuclear plant was thwarted. That battle lies like a cloud over our world. Where it escalates into violence it must be met with force - the bully cannot be allowed to succeed. But there is more. You cannot ultimately defeat a diabolic ideology with the force of arms alone; it musts be meet with an equally compelling battle of the mind. The greatest free civilisation the world has ever seen is our Western civilisation: and it is under threat. Our free society is Christian. It is based on the principles, teachings and practices of the Christian Church founded by Jesus Christ. It is embedded in our culture, customs and traditional practice. It has as its strength a moral code, and its building block is the nuclear family.
As we proudly honour the ANZAC spirit, alive and well in our Army, Navy and Air Force men and women, let us not forget that we too have a responsibility – different in nature , yet similar in purpose. They make us proud by the way they do their job in the defence of freedom - do we deserve their pride in the way we do ours?
We are a Christian country – but there are some who would change our free way of life. The principles of a free Australia and the principles of Christianity are one and the same. Destroy one and you destroy both. As we applaud the courage and integrity of those who wear the uniform of the ANZACS, so we too need to wear our uniform with that same pride and determination.
So, today we learn from our Diggers - we take on that same courageous spirit and do our part.
On this ANZAC Day we celebrate in proud remembrance a heritage given us at a great cost - they gave their lives so that we could live in a free Australia and be what we want to be. Without their sacrifice we would be speaking a different language and not be here today. We do not forget their sacrifice; we honour it by accepting the challenge of
today to uphold our proud traditions and customs of our Christian country. If what they did took great courage, so today we require that same courage and resolution. Our actions need to speak as loudly as our words: our faithfulness to God is as important as their faithfulness to their mates.
Today we honour them, not just in words, but in pledge. They have given us a proud heritage - we will pass that heritage on to the generations to come - the ANZAC Spirit that is Australia - was, is and will be. Will you join me in that pledge!
God bless Australia.
God bless Australians.