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Wednesday, 15 October 2003
Page: 21588


Ms GAMBARO (11:54 AM) —I want to say how moved I was by the speech of the member for Bowman. It would not have been a very easy speech to make. I commend him on the courage he has shown over the past years. I know that he can truly speak from the heart and understand what many of the victims of the Bali bombings are feeling and going through. I want to thank him for his words. I agree with him on one thing: after tomorrow's ceremony we should move on. We have grieved and the whole nation has grieved at a time that has been one of the most sorrowful. The incidents that occurred a year ago are pretty fresh in many people's memories. I did have the fortune of not having any victims or families of victims in my electorate, but my heart bled for the rest of the victims from the states and electorates that are represented here.

One thing I do remember from a backbencher's point of view is being with Kay Patterson shortly after the Bali bombing. She had visited some of the hospitals that were treating many of the victims, and I do not think I will forget for as long as I live what I saw in some of the photographs she showed me. There were teams of doctors, nurses and specialists, sometimes 10 to a person, working on swollen limbs and injuries that are just too difficult to even describe. Those photographs of the medical teams doing whatever they could to ensure that those people had the best chance of survival were truly shocking to see, and I will never forget that. On a more personal note, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Chris Gallus, made an enormous effort to personally ring and contact each of the families and speak to them. That human contact is so important. Those victims and families knew there was someone helping them, and that was very touching as well.

The world indeed is a darker place since this terrible event occurred, and it has changed the way that many of us view the world and our safety in the world. On 9 October, the Prime Minister delivered a very moving address about Bali and he spoke about the effects that those events have had on the national psyche. In that address, he spoke about the devastating and immediate physical consequences of the Bali bombing for its victims. He rightly said that the consequences scarred not just the bodies of those who suffered and died in Bali but the souls of us all.

The bombing in Bali scarred for all time the Australian psyche and also our collective consciousness as a nation. A year after Bali, that collective scar on the Australian soul is slowly healing, but it will never go away and nor would we wish it to disappear completely. As every campaign veteran who has ever fought in war for his or her country knows, the scars earned in combat are the true badge of courage, not the medal that is pinned to a breast afterwards. Australia must never forget that Bali incident, but we must wear the battle scar of Bali proudly. Like all scars, the devastating impact of Bali will fade with time—that is inevitable, natural and necessary if we are to move on as a nation, as the member for Bowman said earlier, and resume the routine of normalcy. It is particularly necessary because we cannot, nor will not, depart from the scene of what happened.

Australians will continue, as they have always done, to visit Bali. It is a part of our modern culture and a part of our history, just as Bondi Beach is. It is bound to us by ties of art, culture, our love of the beach and the sea, surfing holidays, honeymoons and personal and family history. Bali will always be part of the Australian spiritual homeland, and Australia will remain a part of Bali—now, after the bombing, more than ever before.

So the scar of what happened on 12 October 2002 must fade if we are to continue to grow as a freedom-loving, tolerant and optimistic people, unafraid of the world, wary but willing to get on with the business, the challenges and the dangers of living. The scar inflicted on us by the bloody events of Bali can never be excised, must never be forgotten and must be proudly remembered and worn as evidence of the indelible victory for the national character and for our strength, resilience and love of life.

It is sometimes said that Australia, being a young nation, has no history—that history, the turbulent scarring of landscape by civil wars and ancient animosities, by bloody but long forgotten feuds on long abandoned battlefields and battlegrounds overseas, is something that only really happened overseas. Anyone who has visited Gallipoli, the Somme, Kokoda or Long Tan knows the fallacy of that misguided view. Our greatest fields of honour are, in the narrow geographical sense, overseas. We are a country blessed by the absence of some kinds of history. The place in which national identity, courage, honour and humanity are really forged is not to be found on maps; it is located in the heart. That is where the chapter of our history that forever will be called simply `Bali' is to be found. As with all great place names in the geography of the Australian psyche—like Gallipoli and Kokoda—no further description or explanation will ever be necessary when Australians speak about Bali.

That spirit of the place that defines the important landmarks in our history, that adds a dimension which all Australians, whatever their colour, now understand as `secret sacred', has made Bali a word that never needs qualification. In its unspoken context, it will be eloquently recalled in silence. That is what the Prime Minister alluded to when he said in his address on 9 October:

... nothing will break the Australian spirit. It—

Bali—

demonstrated that we are a remarkable people, that we are tough and durable and resilient—indeed, I have said on many occasions, as tough as tungsten—

tungsten steel. However much we would prefer it otherwise, it is flame that forges the toughest steel. Was it a coincidence that the very moving newspaper tribute to the Bali victims in the WeekendAustralian of 11-12 October was headlined `Bali: beyond the flames'? Out of the flames of Bali the Australian spirit has risen steelier, stronger, more determined and more united perhaps than at any time in our recent postwar history. I quote again from the Prime Minister's speech:

We were changed by Bali. We were not weakened; indeed, we were strengthened. But we have gone through an experience that will be forever part of the national consciousness.

Bali was the fire that tempered our steel—tempered it in the full sense, meaning to soften as well as to toughen, to impart a better balance of hardness and flexibility, and to be able to bend with opposing forces without losing our intrinsic strength and our hope.

What is it that gives Australia its shape in a geographical sense? It is our sea—the sea that surrounds us, that links us to our neighbours, that has been for millennia of shared oceanic history a navigation route to Bali and the islands of Indonesia. Australians love the sea. We are surrounded by it, we are formed by it and our earliest experiences are definitely of it. The most ancient of our Aboriginal rock art is filled with images of the sea. Even the arrival of the first Europeans in their boats, which is depicted geographically in cave paintings to be found on Cape York and in Arnhem Land, features the sea.

The sea divides and in some ways protects Australia from other continents, countries, places and problems, but it also has been for millennia the bridge which links us to them. It was by sea that the first navigators from Indonesia and the fishermen, the Macassans, and others, who sailed the annual trade winds, arrived and established settlements among the peoples of Arnhem Land and left their footprints on our northern coastline. That is why the final funeral services in Bali, and for Bali in Australia, so appropriately involved the sea. Flowers and candles were floated out to sea; surfers joined hands and prayed out on the sea for peace and forgiveness. It was a reminder that we are all neighbours on one ocean. Australia and Bali are simply different shores washed by the same waves.