Transcript - 24306
Address to Operation Slipper Commemoration Service, Canberra
Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015
Release Date: 21/03/2015
Release Type: Speech
Transcript ID: 24306
On this National Day of Commemoration, we honour all who served in Afghanistan as part of Australia’s longest war – our armed forces personnel, our police, and our civilians.
That war ended not with victory, and not with defeat, but with hope: hope for a better Afghanistan, and for a safer world.
It really began with the attack on the Twin Towers in New York.
The 9/11 atrocity was not just an attack on America – it was an attack on civilisation, plotted and planned under the protection of the Taliban government.
The war in Afghanistan was never just to bring one country into the modern era; it was to protect every country and all people from those who would kill anyone who did not submit to their version of Islam.
It has been a long, hard and testing conflict; for us, it’s largely over in Afghanistan, but it continues in Iraq where the ISIL or Daesh death cult has likewise declared war on the world.
As Corporal Mark Donaldson VC has put it: "Protecting our country doesn’t just mean battening down the hatches and staying on our island and hoping the threat won’t come our way. It can mean going somewhere else, going to war to uproot the threat at its source."
And that is what we did.
Australia accepted our responsibility for the safety of our own people and for the safety of the wider world and deployed our armed forces so that Afghanistan would no longer be a safe haven for terrorism.
Our armed forces, police and officials, almost 35,000 of them over the decade, served to uphold our values and to protect our interests.
In Uruzgan, Kandahar, Helmand, and Kabul; at other bases throughout the Middle East and aboard the ships of the Royal Australian Navy, we served to promote the universal decencies of mankind.
We mourn the 41 who died.
We grieve with the 263 who suffered serious physical wounds.
And we acknowledge the unseen wounds of hundreds more.
Your mission is over, but our mission to stand with you and to support you continues.
As Mrs Elvi Wood, the widow of Sergeant Brett Wood, said of her late husband: “He loved Australia. He loved what he did. He did not hesitate when he was told, you need to go there and serve your country. He wanted to be there.”
So, today, we honour all of you – and your families, too. They carried you in their hearts and in their prayers; and they also serve who only stand and wait.
Australians didn’t fight to conquer; we fought to protect, to help, and to build.
Afghanistan is a better country because Australia was there.
Thanks to you, there are girls’ schools, roads and bridges where formerly there were none.
Thanks to you, the Afghan National Security Forces have been and continue to be trained.
Thanks to you, the world has seen once more that we are a reliable ally.
And thanks to you, the world is safer.
Today, we remember everyone who wore our uniform and served in our name.
You did your duty.
You are worthy heirs to the ANZAC legacy.
Now, some decades ago, Australians returned home from another war and were not properly acknowledged.
So, today, on behalf of our nation, I say to all our Afghanistan veterans: we are grateful to have you home, we acknowledge your achievements, and we thank you for your service.