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Opening of the Bravery Garden at Government House, Canberra: address.

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ADDRESS BY SIR WILLIAM DEANE

GOVERNOR-GENERAL OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

ON THE OCCASION OF THE OPENING OF THE

BRAVERY GARDEN AT GOVERNMENT HOUSE

CANBERRA

WEDNESDAY, 20 JUNE 2001

 

 

Holders Of Bravery Awards, Chief Minister, Ministers, Members of the Parliament and the Legislature, Chief, Former Chiefs, Members and former Members of the Defence Force, Ladies and Gentlemen.

 

This is an extremely distinguished gathering.   I thank each of you for your presence and, on behalf of Helen, myself and the staff, extend a very warm welcome to Yarralumla.   As you all know we are gathered for the opening of a special garden which will be a central feature of Government House in the years ahead.   In that context, it is appropriate that I acknowledge the Ngunnawal people on whose ancestral lands the Garden stands.

 

Until Monday of this week it was our hope that it would be possible for Sir Roden Cutler to open the Garden personally.   Sir Roden is at least arguably the most distinguished living Australian, one of our three remaining holders of the Victoria Cross and a former Diplomat, State Governor and Administrator of the Commonwealth and thus a resident on occasions at Yarralumla.   Sadly, he is unwell and confined to hospital.

 

Sir Roden has agreed that in his absence the other two Australian Victoria Cross holders, Mr Ted Kenna and Mr Keith Payne, should represent him and open the Garden for him.   Assisting in the ceremony by unveiling message stones will be one of the three holders of what is now our highest civilian bravery award, Mr Allan Sparkes;  Mr. Ted Smout OAM who served in the Australian Army Medical Corps in France between 1916 and 1919; Mr John Thurgar, who is the holder of a Star of Courage and is President of the Australian Bravery Association and Professor Valerie Pratt AM, the Chairperson of the Australian Bravery Decorations Council.

 

In earlier days, this flat area served many purposes including a badly drained croquet court and, subsequently, a grass tennis court.   In more recent years, it had become a nondescript collection of shrubs and a massive dead tree stump along the top of what was a much steeper bank;  an ugly cyclone wire fence and a set of steps which ended in a semi-permanent pool of muddy water.

 

We at Government House had been thinking for some time about what might be done with it as it is an important part of the grounds in the direct view of all our visitors coming to and leaving Government House.

 

As many of you know, just over two years ago, Helen and I went to Gallipoli for Anzac Day.   We found it a uniquely moving experience.   I mention it for the reason that, in the dawn at Ari Burnu, I tried to articulate what the spirit of Anzac means for our country:

 

No one can express all that this day means to us Australians and New Zealanders.   It is, said Australia's great historian Manning Clark, 'about something too deep for words'.   But in the stillness of the early dawn, and in the silence that will settle once more along this shoreline, we feel it in the quiet of our hearts.   The sense of great sadness.   Of loss.   Of gratitude.   Of honour.   Of national identity.   Of our past.   Of the spirit, the depth, the meaning, the very essence of our nations.   And of the human values which those first Anzacs - and those who came after them - embodied and which we, their heirs, must cherish and pass to the future.

 

Returning home, it seemed to me that we had nothing here at Yarralumla that keyed into that important aspect of our national life.   We undertook some consultations.   We even used "The Anzac Garden" as a working title.   Yet clearly this could not be any replication of the function so magnificently undertaken in this city by our national Australian War Memorial.

 

At about the same time, Mr John Thurgar was talking to the Official Secretary about the then upcoming 25 th anniversary on 14 February 2000 of the introduction in 1975 of Australia's own honours system including our own bravery decorations, both military and civilian.   He too was thinking of a garden.

 

The idea developed and took hold of a Garden which would provide a focus here at Yarralumla both for courage and sacrifice in war and also for civilian bravery.

 

John Easthope and Associates were asked to provide some designs.   The Official Secretary and I had been thinking of something strongly based on the axis from the front door, perhaps with a long pool of reflection.   The designer's genius was to pick on that quintessential Australian symbol, the Southern Cross, to orient it on this site due North and South, with its five major stars providing the reference points for the Message Stones which will shortly be unveiled.   The Southern Cross speaks its own language:  for some it is Eureka;  for others, the cross of Christianity;  for all of us who live in and love this land it is the symbol and essence of Australia.

 

The Garden was under construction on the 14 th of February 2000 when we had a ceremony here to mark the 25 th anniversary of the wholly Australian system of Bravery Decorations.   The two Jarrah seats in the Garden were presented to Government House for eventual use here at that time by all those who had come together for that occasion to form the Australian Bravery Association, a number of whose office holders and members are here today.   I again thank all those who contributed for their generosity.

 

The garden was subsequently completed with construction being undertaken by Urban Contractors Pty Ltd and much of the horticultural work being undertaken by our head gardener, Pat Garratt, his Deputy, Norm Dunn, and their truly outstanding staff.

 

I take this opportunity to thank all those who have been associated with the development of the Garden.   The Official Establishments Trust chaired by Mr Richard Griffin, the Australian War Memorial, its Director, General Gower and staff, and the Director of the Office of Australian War Graves, Air Vice Marshall Gary Beck were consulted at a early stage.   Subsequently we had very helpful comments on the themes in the garden from a large number of people and organisations and people including the Honourable Bruce Scott, Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Mr Moore-Wilton, who has kept the Prime Minister informed, Admiral Barrie, the Chief of the Defence Force, Professor Pratt and the other members of the Australian Bravery Decorations Council, General Peter Phillips, National President of the RSL and Mr. Thurgar on behalf of the Australian Bravery Association.   I particularly thank the Official Secretary, Mr. Martin Bonsey, who has provided the constant input and impetus and Mr. Gordon Mair, our Household and Property Manager, for the work they have undertaken on the project.

 

I now invite Mr Keith Payne and Mr Ted Kenna to open the Garden, on behalf of Sir Roden Cutler, by removing the covers on the buttress wall and on the West Message Stone.

 

The West Stone reads:

THIS GARDEN IS DEDICATED TO BRAVE AUSTRALIANS.

BASED ON THE SOUTHERN CROSS, ITS MESSAGE STONES

DEPICT THE AUSTRALIAN MILITARY AND CIVIL BRAVERY DECORATIONS,

COMMEMORATE THOSE WHOSE BRAVERY COST THEM THEIR LIVES AND

ACKNOWLEDGE THE COUNTLESS ACTS OF BRAVERY THAT REMAIN UNKNOWN.

THESE WHOLLY AUSTRALIAN AWARDS CONTINUE THE TRADITION OF THE PREVIOUS IMPERIAL DECORATIONS, INCLUDING THE VICTORIA CROSS AND THE GEORGE CROSS, AWARDED TO AUSTRALIANS FOR BRAVERY, ESPECIALLY DURING THE WORLD WARS AND OTHER CONFLICTS IN WHICH AUSTRALIA TOOK PART.

 

I now invite Mr Ted Kenna and Mr Keith Payne, in their own right as holders of the Victoria Cross, to unveil the North Stone.

 

This stone depicts the military bravery decorations of our current system:  at the centre and forefront the Victoria Cross for Australia, flanked by the Star of Gallantry and the Medal of Gallantry and backed up by the Commendation for Gallantry and the Unit Citation.   The bronze plaque on the front of the stone is the emblem used on the warrants that are issued with the gallantry decorations.

 

Although there is no longer a George Cross in the Australian honours system, our wholly Australian awards very much evolved from the awards previously received by Australians as part of the imperial honours system.   That fact is emphasised today by the fact that Allan Sparkes, one of only three holders of the Cross of Valour, will unveil the South Stone on behalf of himself and Michael Pratt, the last and only remaining Australian holder of the George Cross, whose presence has been delayed by today's Canberra fog.

 

This stone depicts the civilian bravery decorations of our current system:  at the centre and the forefront the Cross of Valour, flanked by the Star of Courage and the Bravery Medal and backed up by the Commendation for Brave Conduct and the Group Citation.   The bronze plaque on the front of the stone is the emblem used on the warrants that are issued with the civilian bravery decorations.

 

I now invite Mr Ted Smout who was witness to so much courage and so much carnage in France in the First World War to unveil the East Stone.

 

The inscription on the East Stone reads:

IN MEMORY OF ALL THOSE WHOSE BRAVERY COST THEM THEIR LIVES AND IN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF THE LOSS SUFFERED BY THEIR LOVED ONES

 

And finally, I invite Mr John Thurgar, the President of the Australian Bravery Association and Professor Valerie Pratt, the Chairperson of the Australian Bravery Decorations Council to unveil the Fifth Stone.

 

The inscription on the Fifth Stone reads:

 

IN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF

THE COUNTLESS ACTS OF BRAVERY

THAT REMAIN UNKNOWN.

 

Both the East and Fifth Stones also depict a sprig of wattle, another important symbol of our nation.   It brings to mind that, within the last four weeks, a sprig of wattle from here was placed at the summit of Mount Everest and almost two years ago, Helen and I took wattle from here to Interlaken, in both cases commemorating the lives lost overseas by Australians pursuing their spirit of adventure.

 

Finally, I thank the Federation Guard and the musicians from the Royal Military College Band for their typically outstanding display this morning.

 

After the Guard has marched off, I invite all our guests to look through the garden and then come up to the House for refreshments.