MS TIERNEY (Minister for Training and Skills) (09:49:16) — Anzac Day this year had a special focus on the centenary of the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, which is of particular significance for Australians. In April 1918 in a battle to reclaim lost ground on the Western Front in France there were over 2400 casualties out of 3900 Australians who fought, 9500 British casualties and 10 000 German casualties in a defining Allied victory and a turning point. The Great War remains one of the world’s worst. It retains all of the appalling records for casualties. Australia’s memorial at Villers-Bretonneux is especially important. It records the names of nearly 10 000 Australians, mostly young, who died somewhere in France but who have no known grave — that is, they are missing, their bodies not recovered or unidentifiable. They were buried in a mass grave.
At the two services I attended — Geelong RSL’s pre-dawn service in Geelong, and Portarlington/St Leonards RSL morning service at Portarlington — the involvement of ordinary citizens in major world events was very much the theme. Both were very quiet, sedate and respectful events. Some wore medals and hats of relatives long gone, and some were veterans themselves of much more recent conflicts. I would like to make particular mention of Lieutenant Colonel Neil Grimes at the Portarlington service and Captain Darren Stendt at the Geelong service for their moving contributions. Their speeches were informative, inspirational and a timely reminder of those that give a true meaning of service to country.
I take this opportunity to thank and congratulate all RSLs on organising all the many and varied services throughout Victoria on Anzac Day in 2018.