Your Excellency, President Waqa; honourable Ministers and Members of Parliament; current and former military personnel; public servants, travellers, families, and friends.
Welcome, all, to this very special ANZAC Day memorial event.
ANZAC Day is Australia’s most important national commemorative occasion.
It is a day of remembrance; an opportunity for us to honour and respect those who have served.
Especially, we remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
The spirit of the Anzacs, their courage, their endurance, their mateship and their humour, helped forge our nation, just fifteen years after Federation.
For Australia, the First World War was a loss of innocence, a coming of age, and a proof of nationhood.
Each generation of Australians measures itself against the Anzacs’ courage and sacrifice.
From 2015 to 2018, the Australian Government has been commemorating the ANZAC Centenary, which marks 100 years since our nation’s involvement in the World War I.
2017 in particular marks the 100-year anniversary since the Third Battle of Ypres in Flanders.
During the three months of this battle, around 310,000 soldiers died from the Allied forces, which included soldiers from the United Kingdom, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa, France, Belgium and Australia.
In eight weeks alone, over 38,000 Australians and 5,300 New Zealanders died in Flanders.
The ravages of conflict – two world wars in particular – are far-reaching.
Nauru has not been untouched by these conflicts.
During the First World War, Australian troops ousted the German Empire from this island.
In fact within four days of the beginning of World War 1, HMAS Melbourne arrived off Nauru and sent a landing party ashore to take down the German flag.
For Nauru, the Second World War has the significance that the First World War has for Australia and New Zealand.
Japanese troops occupied Nauru and sent around half of the population to what was then Truk, now Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia.
I have seen first-hand the impact of the Japanese occupation; climbing over the pinnacles and up the quite treacherous ‘bomber track’ to see the remnants of an American bomber plane.
We hiked to a Japanese command bunker and up to see Japanese guns which still remain on Command Ridge.
As Australia and New Zealand commemorate nationhood and sacrifice in war on ANZAC Day, Nauru commemorates nationhood and sacrifice on Angam Day.
Australia’s Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove, was very pleased to have met Your Excellency, President Waqa, during your State Visit to Australia.
Sir Peter noted that his father was posted as a serviceman to Nauru during the Second World War and experienced first-hand the Japanese bombing raids.
Sir Peter is in Papua New Guinea today, another close and important Pacific neighbour, to commemorate the events of the Second World War in that country.
We know of at least five Australian civilians who were executed while prisoners of war by Japanese soldiers during the occupation of Nauru.
I understand that, with the help of the people of Nauru, the Australian Department of Defence has been investigating the whereabouts of those Australians who have lain here since 1943.
Nauru is their final resting place.
Today, we remember our compatriots who suffered together in that tumultuous time.
These events are part of our shared Pacific history – an important strand in the ties that bind our countries.
Together, we all, Nauruans and friends of Nauru, honour the sacrifices made during that conflict.
Let us remember that our generation is not the first in which Nauruans, Australians and New Zealanders, together with friends from other nations, have worked together to build development, stability and security across our region.
Nor will we be the last. We, too, will leave an example for others to follow.
Let it be one of friendship, service and hope.
I thank you for the invitation to speak and welcome you all to this commemorative event.
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