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Speech: Bennett - Address to Porirua City Anzac Day Service

Hon David Bennett

Minister of Veterans’ Affairs

25 April 2017

Address to Porirua City Anzac Day Civic Service

E ngā mana, e ngā waka e ngā reo o te motu
Tihei mauri ora!
No reira tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā no tātou katoa.

Today we come together as one, to remember. To remember the brave men and woman who stood for our country. To remember our shared history.
To remember and acknowledge what Anzac means to us - collectively as a nation and individually. For each person here today, from our kaumatua to our mokopuna, there will be a connection that is individual and unique. On this day it will be felt most deeply.

Anzac Day is an important day in the New Zealand calendar as a reminder of the inspirational qualities of those who came before us. Qualities which underpin the New Zealand character. Qualities, the soldiers we are remembering today, showed in the face of adversity: courage, comradeship, commitment and integrity. This was the soldier’s creed. Although more than a hundred years have passed since New Zealand first joined their brothers in arms, today’s service personnel follow that same creed.

We remember soldiers like Private Robert George Auty, one of Porirua’s finest. As a young man he gave his life in service of our country. Where he was stationed was considered an ideal place to introduce New Zealanders to life on the Western Front. Here he took part in the division’s first action and after dark on the evening on 13 May 1916 he was killed in action. He was the division’s first death in combat. We think of his mother, who had already lost her husband in a tragic train accident. She would have been proud of Robert’s service, but also deeply mourning the loss of her son.

The world of 2017 is a very different place from when Anzac Day was first commemorated. Certain things, however, have remained constant. Today, like their forebears in the First World War, the men and women of the New Zealand Defence Force are actively engaged across the globe promoting and defending our national values.

A century ago our country was in the midst of the hardest year of the First World War. During 1917 the New Zealand Expeditionary Force suffered nearly 24,000 casualties.

In April 1917 the New Zealand Division was making meticulous preparations for its part in the Battle of Messines. When the assault took place in June 1917 it was a success, but on the Western Front even success was costly and failure often catastrophic. It took years to master the technical and tactical challenges created by the world’s first industrialised war, and the cost, especially in human lives, was great.

Despite its earlier successes, in October 1917 New Zealand suffered its worst ever military disaster, close to 1000 men killed in a single attack at Passchendaele.

The high tempo of operational deployments in recent years has changed the face of our former service-personnel population, which currently numbers more than 30,000 ranging from the ages of 19 through to over 100.

Compared with the older generation, our younger veterans have and will continue to have a range of different experiences. It needs to be remembered that they all represent and protect not only our nation, but our allies and those who do not have the capability to protect themselves.

Anzac Day is about celebrating veterans from all conflicts who have fought for the rights and freedoms we enjoy today. We acknowledge and thank those contemporary veterans from modern day conflicts such as Bosnia, the Gulf, the Solomon’s and Afghanistan. You have our gratitude for your bravery and selflessness.

Many people associate veterans with men, but women have always been just as much part of fighting in these conflicts, either in their services or keeping the home fires burning. Thank you for your efforts for the peace, freedom and security in New Zealand today.

It is a credit to the Porirua Community which has made special endeavours to remember our veterans. This community has a number of groups working on its behalf to upgrade the city’s memorial precinct to include wall mounted plaques. The plaques commemorate the local men and woman who have lost their lives while defending their country. We acknowledge the admirable work that has been undertaken by the Porirua City Council, the Commemorative Wall committee of the RSA and the Porirua Historical Association.

Projects like the Porirua Peace Memorial tell a story about communities that have been affected by events in the past and in the present. It’s impressive this wall not only commemorates those that fought in the First World War, but that of the New Zealand Wars, the Boer War, the Second World War, Far East Wars and to commemorate the peace keepers and peace makers of our modern day deployments.

Anzac Day was first marked in 1916. The meaning of the day has gone through many changes since its inception. Today it commemorates all New Zealanders who have lost their lives in war and it honours those who returned. It is immortalised in the imagery of a red poppy, which is a symbol of the first plant to grow and bloom where our ancestors took their final breath on the battlefield. It enjoys an unusual reverence in our country where emotional public rituals are otherwise absent. It is an opportunity to talk about what it means to be a New Zealander. It’s an opportunity to discuss what we came from.

For some it is the only day in a year they will do this. However, for many the memory is kept alive through local RSA’s and other veteran support groups.

One of the unforgettable moments of Anzac Day is seeing everyone standing together side by side, civilian and military, young and old, and the acknowledgement that those who have crossed the veil stand with us.

This is their story.
This is our story.
Lest we forget.
We will remember them.

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