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The Hon Bruce Billson MP

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The Hon Bruce Billson MP Powered By Docstoc
					The Hon Bruce Billson MP
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence
Great Ocean Road War Memorial
Official Unveiling Ceremony
Great Ocean Road Archway, Victoria
13 April 2007

It is a great pleasure and with some pride that I am able to join you here today
for the unveiling of this magnificent tribute, the Great Ocean Road War
Memorial, in this most spectacular part of our magnificent country.

This is a moving tribute. Julie Squires’ beautiful work has captured the spirit,
the qualities, look at the facial expressions, the hands, the meticulous detail in
the metal, the way the jacket, made of metal, can seem to come to life before
our eyes. She has done a magnificent job encapsulating those qualities that
we know to be embodied by the Anzac Spirit. It encapsulates many themes
of mateship, of helping each other, of lending a hand to get a difficult job
done, to face adversity and not just to survive but to succeed. It also reminds
us well that long after the world class efforts and pursuits of our men and
women in uniform, overseas in theatres of war and in times of peacekeeping
and peace enforcement and in humanitarian work as well. After their military
service our men and women of the Australian Defence Force continue to
make a terrific contribution to our nation. Nowhere more clearly is that
represented than here – after the horrors of the First World War they came to
help build a nation and it captures so much of that spirit.

In terms of building the Great Ocean Road – what a heck of a job that was.
Some 13 years in the making involving the labour, the blood, sweat and tears
and also 3000 returned servicemen. Hard, strong, brave Australians who had
done us all proud and done our nation an outstanding tribute in their service
on the battlefields of WW1 to come back and make another contribution to our
country. In terms of their character and their resolve, what better group could
we have entrusted such a massive, difficult and demanding undertaking.

Armed only with only picks and shovels, the work was physically tough,
demanding and dangerous. A number of people lost their lives during the
construction of the road.

Accommodation as you have seen from the educational material behind us
were simple bush camps featuring row upon row of A frame tents along the
roadside.

This is a magnificent feat of human endeavour that has produced a road that I
think we would all agree in many ways was well ahead of it’s time then and
now has earned the international reputation and respect it deserves.
Stretching some 400 kilometres, built by our diggers to honour the memory of
the 60,000 Australians who died during the Great War. This is a truly
magnificent Avenue of Honour and an Avenue of Honour renowned not only
here in Australia but across the world. For many overseas visitors a trip to our
land would not be complete without a drive along the Great Ocean Road. As
part of that experience visitors to this region will capture more of the story that
sits behind this magnificent piece of carriageway.

From the project’s beginnings in 1918 and through financial support,
fundraising and the visionary hard work of Geelong Mayor, Howard Hitchcock,
the road was officially opened in November 1932 by Victoria’s Lieutenant
General Sir William Irvine. It was opened at a site near Lorne, the site where
the first survey peg was hammered in more than a decade prior.

Today the Legacy of this vision is evident in a road that showcases what is
arguably one of the most visually beautiful coastlines in the world.

This road provides not only a link between Victoria’s costal towns but it also
offers spectacular views of the Southern Ocean and Bass Strait. We have
internationally recognised rock formations, the Twelve Apostles and the
London Arch. These line the coastline and draw thousands of visitors here
every year and now as part of that experience they will understand the service
and the sacrifice of our veterans. The road allows visitors to discover more of
Australia’s natural environment, now they will learn more about our military
history and the character that made this nation.

But for all of it’s importance at a tourism level, this is an outstanding and
remarkable memorial to those Victorians who lost their lives during WW1 and
this unveiling today further commemorates their service and gives us a living
memorial to what they achieved, not only on the battlefront but here on the
home front.

World War 1 remains our nation’s costliest conflict. From a population at the
time of fewer than 5 million, 417,000 men enlisted. More than 60,000 lost
their lives and more than 158,000 were wounded or damaged by the
experience, gassed or taken prisoner. It is memorials such as this that make
us always remember that those tragic statistics encapsulate.

I am proud that the Australian Government is able to make a financial
contribution to this memorial. Our commemoration programs and initiatives
like this enable current generations of Australians to understand the vital role
of our service men and women, not only the role that they play today but the
incredible role they played in the history of a great nation.

The Australian Government is honoured to assist the Surf Coast community to
provide a permanent place of remembrance along the Great Ocean Road. I
would again like to acknowledge the support, the leadership of the Geelong
Community Foundation, the magnificent gift and skill of Julie Squire, to Roger
Grant and his team and Great Ocean Road Marketing, to the two municipal
councils that have supported this incredible community enterprise, to all of
you who are paying respect and showing your support by attending here
today, I acknowledge and congratulate you all.

This is what keeps history alive and connects it with modern day life. The
peace, the prosperity, the pluralism we enjoy today came at great cost. This
is a wonderful reminder of that cost and a remarkable tribute to the people
that paid such a high price so that we may be free. We will always remember
them.

I congratulate all those involved with making this achievement today.

				
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