PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 9476

SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER, THE HON P.J.KEATING, MP POW CEREMONY, AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL, 14 FEBRUARY 1995

Photo of Keating, Paul

Keating, Paul

Period of Service: 20/12/1991 to 11/03/1996

More information about Keating, Paul on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 14/02/1995

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 9476

PRIME MINISTER
SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER, THE HON P. J. KEATING, MP
POW CEREMONY, AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL, 14 FEBRUARY 1995
I am honoured to speak to you today at this commemorative service for
Australian Prisoners of War.
This year we are commemorating the 50th anniversary of the end of World War
II. In Europe they are commemorating the liberation of their countries from
occupation and tyranny; the end of a war which took the lives of millions and
wrought devastation on a scale unequalled in history.
They are celebrating freedom and honouring the dead including those 6 million
Jews who died in the Holocaust.
Because many thousands of Australians fought in Europe and the Middle East,
we in Australia are sharing in this commemoration.
We are also commemorating the end of the war in Asia and the Pacific, which
was no less a fight for freedom over tyranny, and the price in death and suffering
was just as high.
It was also, for a time, a fight to save Australia.
In all, more than 27,000 Australians died in the Second World War. Their
sacrifice, like those who have died in every war, will never be forgotten.
We pledge this as Australians.
Here at the Australian War Memorial and at memorials in communities
throughout Australia we remember those who made the supreme sacrifice.
They are also remembered at memorials overseas.

In the past three years I have visited some of them in Britain and France, New
Guinea and in Thailand.
In Thailand last year, at Kanchanaburi. I attended a service for the Australians
who diedi as Prisonprs of War on the Rpijrmp-Th qi land Railwav. Their story is
legendary.
Thirty thousand Australians were POWs in various parts of the world. It is they
who we are honouring today: the Australians who died in captivity.
We are paying tribute to the Australians whose desire to serve their country and
the cause of freedom led them to leave their country and / ose their freedom.
Their privations were profound.
To remember the sacrifice of our POWs today we need to imagine not just the
physical suffering they endured, but the psychological suffering the terrible
loneliness and the sense of loss, the homesickness and the helplessness they
had to live with.
And we need to ask ourselves what gave them the faith and courage they
needed to live with the adversity and fight off the despair.
How did they keep hope alive?
We know from accounts like those of Barney Roberts and Weary Dunlop, and
from what Max Jagger has said this morning, that paramount among the
sustaining values of Australian POWs were those indefinable bonds between
them which we call mateship.
Today we should remember the basis on which those bonds are built the love
of freedom and fairness, the pragmatism, resourcefulness and perseverance and
above all the love of this place. The love of Australia.
They are sustaining values for this generation too.
Perhaps, then, we should bring two messages to this commemoration.
One is the message of faith and courage, the victory over adversity which can
teach us and inspire us now.
The other is that we should never forget the evil that was done in these prison
camps.

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The outrage we feel about what was done on the Burma-Thailand Railway or on
the Sandakan Death March should never fade.
Our children should know about these things.
We must not forget.
Yet, as the life of Weary Dunlop tells us, we must allow the wounds to heal.
If Australians sacrificed their lives and freedom so that we could be free, we owe
it both to their memory and our children to see that Australia is kept free of old
hatreds and bitterness.
Today, and throughout this year, these are the messages I think we should
convey we honour the sacrifice of that heroic generation and we give meaning
to it by making real their hopes for us and those who follow.

Transcript 9476