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Speech at the Hobart Victoria Cross Memorial unveiling at the Cenotaph on the Domain, Hobart.



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The Hon. Danna Vale MP Minister for Veterans' Affairs Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence

Speech

Sunday 11 May 2003

The Hon Danna Vale MP Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence at the

Hobart Victoria Cross Memorial unveiling at the Cenotaph on the Domain, Hobart

It is my privilege and delight to be here today to witness the dedication of this memorial in honour of the 13 Tasmanian men of valour who have received the Victoria Cross.

For more than 100 years, the VC has been a symbol of the highest valour in wartime.

Tasmania’s 13 recipients stand among 96 exceptional Australians awarded the VC during the 20th Century.

This includes 11 Tasmanians who were awarded the VC for their courage and gallantry on the Western Front.

I recently had the privilege of visiting the battlefields where those great deeds were performed, where so many Australians lost their lives.

Standing at Ypres, Villers-Bretonneux and Bullecourt, where thousands of Australians fought and died, was a truly humbling experience.

Our servicemen and women have served in theatres of war across the globe, and I was overwhelmed with the admiration and respect in which they are still held by the present generation.

A wonderful and moving example of this is the magnificent memorial in Belgium to those soldiers who have no known grave, the Menin Gate.

Every evening at dusk, a ceremony including the Last Post is conducted by the city of Ypres, to commemorate those who died in the Ypres campaign in World War I.

It is an honour to the memory of all Australian servicemen and women that the people of that region still remember with real affection the service of our Diggers, more than 80 years on.

The importance of memorials in honouring the sacrifice of our veterans and servicemen and women cannot be overstated.

It is vital that communities have a place where they can gather together to honour their wartime heritage, and what better place for all Tasmanians than the Victoria Cross Memorial that we dedicate today.

Its innovative approach to commemorating our servicemen and women will ensure that its message of respect and remembrance will remain relevant to future generations of Australians.

The use of a soundscape to impart information to memorial visitors is a simple, yet effective way of communicating the importance of this memorial, and the heroism and seacrifice what it represents.

The Government was so impressed with this memorial that we initially committed $100,000 from the Centenary of Federation funding available in 2001.

Yesterday, I was pleased to announce a further grant of $36,000 to the project, from the Saluting Their Service commemorations program of my Department of Veterans Affairs.

This will help cover the installation of the soundscape, and the final costs of the development.

I commend the Tasmanian RSL on their wonderful vision for a memorial to commemorate this State’s courageous VC recipients. The memorial we see here today is a tribute to the memory of all Tasmanian service personnel, and is a credit to those RSL members that have worked so hard throughout the life of this project.

A memorial such as this could not be possible without the cooperation of all levels of Government. I am pleased that these three tiers of Government, the Hobart City Council, the Tasmanian State Government and the Federal Government have worked together to ensure its success.

Honouring our wartime heritage is an important part of our identity as Australians. Indeed, it was the serving men and women of our fledgling democracy 100 years ago, who gave us the values and the foundation of our nationhood.

And, it is the following generations of service personnel who have continued to be the light-bearers of the Anzac spirit through the ensuing decades. Names like Tobruk, Milne Bay, Kokoda, Kapyong, Maryang San and Long Tan, ring with the values and heroism of the Anzac legend.

Last month we saw thousands of Australians gather for Anzac Day at Gallipoli, on the Western Front, and at the dawn service in every city and town across Australia.

They came in support of our veteran community, and in support of the young men and women in our present Australian Defence Force who are currently serving in areas across the globe.

Again taking their lineage from the original Anzacs, the youngest generation of our serving men and women are all doing an excellent job in Iraq, Timor and Bougainville. They are the pride of our nation and we look forward to their safe and welcome return home.

It is heartening to see the resurgence of the spirit of remembrance in Australia, and I look forward to this memorial being a centrepiece for such commemorative activities in Tasmania.