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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 3030


Mr ROB MITCHELL (McEwen) (12:18): I rise to add my voice to the member for Kingston's motion to recognise Remembrance Day. At 11 am on 11 November 1918, the guns of the Western Front fell silent after more than four years of continuous warfare. The Allied armies had driven the German invaders back, having inflicted heavy defeats upon them in the preceding four months. In November the Germans called for an armistice, a suspension in fighting, so they could seek out a peace settlement to surrender. They accepted Allied terms that amounted to unconditional surrender. This moment allowed the start of armistice between the Allied and German forces, an agreement that, as I said, saw unconditional surrender of the German forces and the end of the war that was supposed to end all wars.

In 1920 this day became both a remembrance and a funeral, as the remains of the unknown soldiers from the Western Front were brought home and buried in their respective nations. After the Second World War, the name for this day was changed from Armistice Day to Remembrance Day, in order to honour all those soldiers who had fallen in these horrific wars. This date has a special significance in the memorial calendar. What started out as a date to mark the end of the war that would supposedly end all wars, it has become a day to honour the generations of men and women that have gone to war, that have exemplified national unity across our nations.

In Australia on the 75th anniversary of Armistice Day, in 1993, Remembrance Day ceremonies became the focus of national attention. The remains of an unknown soldier exhumed from a World War I military cemetery in France was ceremonially entombed in the War Memorial's Hall of Memory. We witnessed that day probably one of the greatest speeches that this country will ever see by Paul Keating. He said:

We do not know this Australian's name and we never will. We do not know his rank or his battalion. We do not know where he was born, nor precisely how and when he died. We do not know where in Australia he had made his home or when he left it for the battlefields of Europe. We do not know his age or his circumstances - whether he was from the city or the bush; what occupation he left to become a soldier; what religion, if he had a religion; if he was married or single. We do not know who loved him or whom he loved. If he had children we do not know who they are. His family is lost to us as he was lost to them. We will never know who this Australian was.

I think those very poignant words of Prime Minister Keating remind us that generations of men and women have gone to war in Australia's name never to return. Those that do return often carry scars that we cannot see—not physical but mental scars. Some people never get over war. Back then we probably did not focus as much on PTSD as we should have and probably did not know or understand the trauma of what war does to someone, to young men and young women that go and see things that we pray we never have to see. I think that all sides of parliament would stand and say that one of the hardest things you can ever have to do is make a decision to send people to die, and I have never seen a government, whether it is our side of the fence or the other side of the fence, do it lightly.

One of the things we do on Remembrance Day is wear a red poppy as a symbol to remind us of the sacrifices made during war. The red poppy has come to be known as an internationally recognised symbol of remembrance. From its association with poppies flowering in the spring of 1915 on the battlefields of Belgium, France and Gallipoli, this vivid red flower has become synonymous with the great loss of life in war. The scope of the poppy and its connections with the memory of those who have died in war has been expanded to help those living too. It was the inspiration and dedication of two women who promoted this same memorial flower as a means by which funds could be raised to support those in need of help, most especially servicemen and civilians suffering from physical and mental hardship as a result of war.

So we should encourage people this Friday to buy a poppy and know the history behind this flower, what it means and how it is supporting our veterans, young and old, their families and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in this nation's name. We should never forget and we should work together to ensure that no more chapters of war are added to this book of pain.