Wednesday, 31 August 2022

Rod and I are honoured to join you today for the dedication of the Dernancourt Memorial.

Memorials have a special place in our community.

They are places of reverence; places to reflect and touchstones for us to remember what went before; a physical place where we can honour those veterans who paid the ultimate price and forever rest in foreign lands.

This memorial will enable people, as they pass by each day, to reflect on how our veterans have enabled us to live in freedom today.

It is also a marker for residents and visitors alike to connect with the meaning of the name of the suburb Dernancourt.

While growing up in Adelaide I was aware of Dernancourt, but like many others did not know of the origins of the name.

It is a story that our children, our grandchildren and the generations yet to come will have the opportunity to be curious about and ultimately come to know, and, through that knowledge to appreciate and respect the legacy of our veterans.

This memorial, which in its design and red bricks pays homage to the original memorial in France, can also be a place to discover the deep and abiding links between us and the people of France - and to come to know the heroism and friendship borne out of sacrifice and service

In my former role as an Australian diplomat, I was privileged to meet the Mayor of Villers Bretonneux and the Prime Minister of France on the occasion of the Centenary of Anzac.

Both conveyed the enduring gratitude of the French people to Australia for the courage and compassion of our Australian soldiers.

Their words were deeply felt, as were those of the French school children who, to this day, are taught about and understand the sacrifices made by Australian soldiers and their families at home here.

Our soldiers mostly didn’t know the people of France, but they knew they were fighting for fellow humans facing the inhumanity of war.

During their rest periods behind the lines, our soldiers would often pitch in, helping locals with harvests and farm work because their working age men were away with the French Army.

At that Anzac commemoration, I also felt the deep reverence and respect afforded to the fallen - the green lawns immaculately tended, flowers bringing a touch of colour, each stone cross perfectly aligned and standing sentinel to the memory of each soldier.

It was profoundly moving to stand there.

While peaceful then, I couldn’t help but imagine what our soldiers endured on the Western Front, something the Sir John Monash Centre, which I visited, conveys exceptionally well.

The soil from the battlefields of Dernancourt will shortly end its long journey to reside here within this memorial - a connection both physically and spiritually between us and the people of France.

Our relationship is also evident by echoing here the words on the Dernancourt Communal Cemetery in France, honouring those who served: Their name liveth for evermore.