Speech to Parliament: ANZAC Centenary

13 May 2015

Before the member for Hasluck leaves the chamber, I want to commend him on a tremendous contribution to this motion in the House. I think it is fair to say that it is not often in this place that you would like someone from the other side to go on longer than they have. I was fascinated by that, Member for Hasluck, and I am very pleased that I could be in the chamber for it.

At 4.30 in the morning a century ago this Anzac Day, a young man named Frederick Pope was among the first to dash ashore at Gallipoli. You can imagine him and his mates in the dark, the waves lapping against their boat, and, most likely, fear in their throats. They could not have imagined the place they would occupy, a century later, in the story of our nation.

Pope's 3rd Brigade was the covering force for the Anzac landing. It helped establish and defend the front line on that beach, on a sacred peninsula with a name now inscribed on the hearts of every Australian and every New Zealander. The 3rd Brigade was made up of Pope's 9th Battalion as well as the 10th, 11th and 12th. His was among the first infantry units raised for the AIF during the First World War—sent to Egypt soon after the war was called. Between the day Pope ran onto the beach and the evacuation later in 1915, his battalion alone lost 236 men and 390 were wounded. Pope himself was shot in the shoulder on that first day, and later gassed in France and Belgium—where my own ancestors contested the feet and yards of that muddy stalemate. He not only survived his wounds, he fought on until the war's end, in some of its most important engagements. He lived to settle locally in Woodridge, the heart of my community, in 1923 with his new bride, where a daughter still lives today.

It is hard to fathom the experience of this man who saw the worst that the world could offer in some of the most horrible places of human history—and who, just a few years later, found himself living in Woodridge, among the trees of a peaceful property. It is harder still to imagine the memories he carried with him when he left there each day to gather timber and farm poultry in the decade after the war. And it is just incredible to think of the courage he showed when he put his hand up to leave that house again for service in another world war, 2½ decades later.

Frederick Pope's memory remains in the records, pamphlets and photos that have been so lovingly maintained by his family, many of which can now be found in the Kingston Buttery Factory Museum, also in my electorate. I want to acknowledge the work done by that museum in gathering his records. I was proud that the Anzac grant that we provided to them was able to house those artefacts and documents in the style that they deserve. I want to thank in particular my friend Kelvin Nicholls, who first introduced me to the Pope family and told me the story of Frederick and his family.

Frederick's memory endures each time we pay our respects on Anzac Day to all the diggers, from two nations, throughout time. I thought of him as well last year when I visited Australian troops at our base in the UAE and when I knelt to honour the light horsemen among the white crosses at the Beersheba War Cemetery in Israel. I like to speak about Pope each Anzac Day because, being among the first onto the beach at Gallipoli and being a local man, he has special significance for those of us who, like him, have made a home and a life in the suburbs and neighbourhoods of my community. I shared his story this year at the Anzac Day service for the Logan district's RSL subbranch at Logan Central.

The parade this year was the biggest in memory. Thousands of people lined the streets, waving flags out of respect for our servicemen and women—Australian flags, Aboriginal flags, Torres Strait Islanderflags and New Zealand flags as well. It was incredible to see so many young people, scouts, guides, schools, veterans and families pause to commemorate those who served.

The service at Logan Central honoured especially our local Aboriginal and Maori communities whose ancestors played a key role in our nations' military history, as so skilfully outlined and told by the member for Hasluck. As my colleague the member for Greenway, who is here at the table, knows, I have one of the largest populations of New Zealanders in Australia living in my local community, and it was crucial to pay respect to their fallen heroes as well. Some of the New Zealanders' headstones in France are marked, 'They came from the ends of the earth.' No one travelled further to suffer and serve than their countrymen did.

I was honoured this Anzac Day to attend not only a Logan Central service but also the dawn service at the Vietnam veterans motorcycle club, the start of the march organised by the Springwood Tri-Services and also the ceremony organised at Greenbank RSL. At all of these ceremonies, and at ceremonies right around the country, we honour people like Frederick Pope and so many others who fought for and served our country. For us Frederick Pope is one symbol, our symbol, of every courageous Australian serviceman and servicewoman.

It was a real privilege today to join the students and staff of St Stephen's Catholic Primary School at Algester, who are visiting Canberra this week. I was privileged and honoured to lay a wreath with them in the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial here in Canberra. When I spoke to them after we had laid the wreath, I talked to them about the unknown soldier interred in Canberra. I think one of the most stirring quotes that has been said about our military men and women was about the unknown soldier by Paul Keating, who said, 'He is all of them. And he is one of us.'

The kids from St Stephen's at Algester did a great job in honouring all of our fallen and all of those who served when I joined them today at the War Memorial. By keeping the memory of people like Frederick Pope alive we honour not just him but all of them in their graves around the world. And we honour the contribution made by veterans who are still with us from too many conflicts and those who serve today.

Perhaps the only thing more remarkable than the story of Frederick Pope—remembering that he was among the first to get ashore at Gallipoli, the Woodridge man in my community—is that there are many thousands of stories like his, hundreds of thousands, from the world wars; from Korea and Vietnam; from Iraq and Afghanistan; right around the world. The Anzacs, the diggers, the nashos—all of them honoured not to glorify war but to reflect upon their selflessness and sacrifice, the two most admirable and most honourable of all human qualities. We remember all of those who serve and have served the country we love and the causes we cherish, in Gallipoli, but also in theatres right around the world.

Gallipoli has been described as a failure. Yes, there were errors made, and those errors cost lives. But we know that in the building of a great nation like ours there are, ultimately, no failures—only lessons. And the lessons that Frederick Pope and his digger mates taught us—about courage, mateship and egalitarianism, to share and to stick together and to never give up—did not perish on the sand and cliffs and fields and grasslands a century ago. They were forged and furthered there.

I want to say again what a privilege it is to speak on this motion from the Prime Minister. I commend speakers on both sides of the House. For example, it was a great honour to listen to my friend the member for Lingiari, who has spent a great deal of his political life in honouring our military men and women and working to ensure that they get the benefits, entitlements and, mostly importantly of all, the recognition that they deserve.

We should reflect together on these words:

Time dims the memory of ordinary events, but not great events. In a nation's history, great events—whether in peace or in war—live in our memories regardless of time.

This is why we remember all of those who serve and have served the country we love and the causes we cherish. It is why we mark the hundred years since Frederick Pope sprinted onto the beach at Gallipoli—because he is all of them and he is one of us. As the story of our community and our country inches forward, year by year, we will remember him and we will remember them—for another hundred years and for hundreds of years after that. Lest we forget.