Melbourne Turkish Community Centre ANZAC Day Laila Reception Dinner

Release Date: 
25 April 2014

Mr Lee Webb – representing David McLachlan, President of the Victoria RSL

Mr Seyit M. Apak – Consul General of the Republic of Turkey

Members of state and federal parliaments, particularly former Premier Ted Baillieu and Robin Scott representing the Victorian Opposition Leader.

Other distinguished guests

I would like to begin by thanking Ramazan Altintas and the Turkish Sub-Branch of the Victorian RSL for hosting this dinner.

Thank you for the invitation to attend this special ceremony.

It is my honour to represent the Prime Minister here today. He sends his regrets that he cannot be here with you but has asked me to read this message:

Today Australians at home and abroad pause to remember all who have served our country.

This is the 99th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli.

Over coming years, Australians will commemorate the centenary of the Great War and remember the tide of events that shaped our nation and that still cast a shadow over the wider world.

The First World War impacted on Australia like nothing else before or since.

It was the crucible that forged our nation.

From a population of just under five million; 417,000 enlisted; 332,000 served overseas; 152,000 were wounded and 61,000 never came home.

Of men aged 18 to 42, almost one in two served in uniform.

Of those who served overseas, almost one in five were killed in action.

Of the 270,000 who returned, more than half had been wounded – and others had mental scars that never healed.

We will never glorify war. Still, the worst of times can bring out the best in us.

It is a remarkable thing that out of the suffering of war, a deep and lasting friendship has emerged between Australia and Turkey.

I honour the work of the Turkish Sub-Branch of the RSL and the Turkish Veterans Association in remembering "the Johnnies and the Mehmets" who fought so valiantly.

Your work is a demonstration that Australia and Turkey are nations of memory, not just of memorials.

Lest we forget.

If I may take a moment, I would like to add my own sentiments to those of the Prime Minister.

Today, at this dinner, we recognise that important parts of our proud history are shared with the Turkish community.

For Australians, Gallipoli was the birthplace of our ANZAC identity.

Thousands of young Australians and New Zealanders landed at Anzac Cove in the hope of bringing a swift end to a distant conflict, while their Turkish counterparts gathered in opposition to defend their homeland.

For Turks, as the Consul General said, the day also has great significance.

Both countries went on to suffer tremendous losses across Europe in a war that brought the continent to its knees.

At Gallipoli, we were adversaries.

But we should never forget that those young Australians and New Zealanders who were coming ashore on the wooden boats and struggling to climb the cliffs at Gallipoli did not hate the men at the time.

They didn’t know them. The men at the top, the Turks, did not know those men who were coming up the cliffs, so this was not a battle of hatred. Rather it was a battle of circumstance.

The fact that our two countries have moved so far since this time is proof of how special our relationship with the people of Turkey is.

Our friendship has grown with deepening social and economic ties, reflecting very much on the maturity of our two nations.

Next year will be a key moment for both nations as we come together to recognise a century of our Turkish-ANZAC connection.

Eight thousand Australians will make the trek to stand side by side with our Turkish brothers and sisters in Gallipoli at the ANZAC Day Dawn Service next year.

We do this to commemorate the century old sacrifice on both sides.

And we will do so with the words of Ataturk ringing loudly in our ears: "They’re not forgotten and they’ll never be forgotten".

Lest we forget.