Alister Henskens portrait
Alister Henskens portrait

ANZAC Day Commemorations

ANZAC Day commemoration with serviceman

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS (Ku-ring-gai—Minister for Skills and Training, and Minister for Science, Innovation and Technology) (17:01): On 25 April 1915, in the early hours of the morning, Australian and New Zealand soldiers first landed on the beaches of Gallipoli. On each Anzac Day since that war, Australians rise at dawn around the same time the Anzacs landed on the beaches over 107 years ago. We come together to honour and commemorate all the men and women who served our nation, many of whom tragically fell in battle. We awoke once more at the dawn of April 25 this year, 107 years after those soldiers landed. Despite the cold of the early morning, the Ku-ring-gai community gathered on Anzac Day this year in large numbers at the West Pymble Bicentennial Park. What followed was a dawn service that reflected the Ku-ring-gai community's respect for our veterans and their families. After two years of restrictions, it was a pleasure to see so many people come out on this occasion.

Another two local Anzac Day services took place at Wahroonga Park and Turramurra Memorial Park. All three events were organised by local scouts and guides, as well as the Rotary clubs of Wahroonga, Turramurra and Ku-ring-gai. Prior to Anzac Day, on 24 April, I was privileged to attend the Anzac march and commemorative service organised by the Hornsby RSL Sub-Branch at the Hornsby War Memorial. Each service was well supported by inspiring young people, including our local cadets, scouts and students. On 15 May Knox Grammar School will hold its annual Anzac memorial service, followed by the ceremonial cadet parade, where the young cadet unit will pay tribute to our fallen soldiers. I thank the Sydney North Region Scouts, Girl Guides NSW, our local Rotary clubs, Knox Grammar School and Hornsby RSL for organising the various services and ensuring that the memories of our fallen live on through subsequent generations. The Ode of Remembrance is read aloud during services, which I now read for the House:

They shall grow not old,

as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them,

nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun

and in the morning

We will remember them.

I highlight a particular word: remember. If current tragic global events reveal anything, it is the importance of remembering the past. While the Gallipoli campaign was ill fated, it is the circumstances surrounding the operation that bring Australians out each year on 25 April. In World War I almost 10 per cent of Australia's population—400,000 out of five million people—volunteered to fight for the principle of freedom. By the end of the Gallipoli campaign, more than 8,000 Australians and 2,000 New Zealanders had lost their lives. Yet the Gallipoli campaign was only one of many battles in World War I and only one of many battles of the twentieth century, and over the course of our history to the present day, in which countless Australians have fought and lost their lives in battle. That is precisely why veterans, their descendants and current Defence Force personnel attend and march in services each year.

Anzac Day is about all those who fell, all those who served and all those who are still serving, and their families. It is a reminder that war must not be taken lightly, because those lost lives will never be returned. It is a reminder to value and cherish human life, and it provides us with a perspective on current events that is deeply rooted in our understanding of the past. As a descendant of a veteran myself, I remember and acknowledge the story of my father who joined the Dutch resistance as a 17‑year‑old during World War II. Later I learned that his main job in the resistance was to risk his life stealing guns from the Germans in broad daylight. My Dutch uncle, Jacques Henskens, also fought in World War II and was made a prisoner of war by the Japanese on the infamous Burma railway. When the camp was liberated my six‑foot uncle weighed only 40 kilograms. My father and my uncle never forgot their experiences, nor will I forget their stories. It is important that we continue to tell those stories and ensure they are remembered by future generations. Lest we forget.