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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 21378

Addres at the Dedication of the National Emergency Services Memorial Canberra

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 12/07/2004

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 21378

The Attorney General, Mr Kenyon, Senator Humphries, Ms Annette Ellis, Brendan Smyth, other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Can I remark just how appropriate it was as I arrived here to hear the band of the Salvation Army playing and to have those inspiring words from Commissioner Strong because there is no organisation in our country that is quicker to the frontline of a disaster or a challenge than the wonderful men and women of the Salvation Army.

Today is an opportunity for us to express a collective national tribute to men and women who are an important part of the Australian story. In fact an inseparable part of the Australian story. If we think back over our own lifetimes we, if we've been alive long enough, we'll remember the trauma and disaster and debate and controversy of military commitments. But we also remember very importantly great domestic human disasters, we think of such tragedies of the bushfires here in Canberra only last year, we think of the Granville train disaster in early 1977, the Thredbo disaster, the Ash Wednesday bushfires and so the list goes on. And they're part of the Australian story, they're part of what we've experienced. And the nature of our country, the size of it, the variability of the elements, they all combine to confront us from time to time and at the leading edge of our response have been a wonderful group of professional people and a wonderful group of volunteers and it is long overdue that we have decided to have a memorial to all of those people and that is what we come here today to open and in the process to thank all of our emergency services, the magnificent men and women of the police services of both the Commonwealth and the States, the SES, all of the ambulance services, the great fire fighting services, anybody who was around here at the beginning of course of last year will remember the extraordinary sacrifice and contribution of the men and women of the emergency and fire fighting and police services, indeed all of the services of the Australian Capital Territory plus invaluable assistance that came from interstate. And I have in the course of my own responsibilities had numerous opportunities to thank and to talk to and to try in a very inadequate way to comfort some of the victims of tragedies and I think an incident I had on Boxing Day two years ago best encapsulated, three years ago rather, the experience of and the spirit of the volunteers, there were some very, very bad bushfires ringing Sydney and I think I went out to a spot near Wallacia where the emergency headquarters were and I met a group of rural fire fighters who'd come from Victoria and this was 11 o'clock on Boxing Day and they indicated to me that they'd mustered and started leaving their homes the previous day, it was on Christmas Day they had left their homes and had set out on the journey to come and help their fellow Australians in another part of the country. And that in a way encapsulated the sort of spirit of these wonderful people.

So can I in the name of all your fellow Australians thank you. We pay tribute and remember the deaths of so many who have put their lives on the line out of an expression of the brotherly love of which the Commissioner spoke to eloquently and in opening this memorial we record our tribute to the spirit of mateship, the volunteer spirit, the co-operative spirit between people of different responsibilities and different parts of the country that always expresses itself so well at a time of personal trauma and local or national challenge. We owe them a great debt, we are a greater nation and a stronger nation as a result and it's a great honour and privilege for me to have been asked, and I know I'll be assisted by representatives including the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, Mike Keelty, to open the memorial. But it is with a real sense of gratitude and affection that I say thank you to these wonderful people, you do us proud and you serve our nation magnificently.

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript 21378