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.