Remembrance Day ceremonies will be held throughout the country today to commemorate the Australians who have died serving their country.
Director of the Australian War Memorial Brendan Nelson said it was important to reflect on the lives lost in conflict, particularly those lost during The Great War.
Mr Nelson said the number of Australians killed in World War I and the impact it had on the nation was beyond comprehension.
“Today, I think it shouldn’t be too much to ask every Australian to perhaps set the alarm on your phone for 10:59; and what you’re doing at 11:00, just stop for a moment and think,” he said.
“You know, we sing our national anthem regularly, ‘Australians all let us rejoice for we are young and free’.
“Just reflect on the fact that we are young and free in no small way because 102,700 Australians have given their lives in our uniform, in our name.”
“This Remembrance Day marks 96 years since the guns fell silent at the end of The Great War. The Great War was the crucible in which our nation’s identity was forged,” he said.
“From a population of under 5 million, 417,000 enlisted, 332,000 served overseas, 152,000 were wounded and 61,000 never came home.
“Today we will remember the courage, achievements, pain and loss of all who have served in our name and we draw strength from their memory. Lest we forget.”
In Canberra, former prime minister John Howard will deliver the commemorative address before a minute’s silence at 11:00am.
While Victoria will today unveil its $45 million redevelopment of Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance.
A new gallery and education space will be opened to mark the 80th anniversary of the shrine, and will be officially dedicated after the Remembrance Day ceremony.
The Shrine of Remembrance Foundation’s chief executive Denis Baguley said the Galleries of Remembrance was an important addition.
“It really will ensure that the shrine will remain relevant for future generations. After all our World War II veterans have passed on. So it’s a very important project in the sense of not only commemoration but education,” he said.
A day to remember returned veterans from recent conflicts
The Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL) has urged people to use Remembrance Day to also reflect on those young veterans who have returned from recent conflicts with mental health and substance abuse issues.
President of the Tasmanian RSL, Robert Dick, said almost half of all Tasmanian men fought in the war.
“The Tasmanian presence was very strong, for an area that had a very small population at the time,” he said.
“Of the Tasmanians that actually went and served at the Western Front and at Gallipoli and the Middle East, one in four did not come home, they actually died either of wounds or were killed outright.”
New South Wales RSL president Don Rowe said many young veterans in their 20s and 30s were struggling to return to civilian life after tours of duty in Afghanistan, Iraq and Timor.
He said the sale of red poppies on Remembrance Day was part of an RSL fundraising drive to give returned soldiers the support and services they needed.
“Mental illness obviously is a very large issue. We’re also finding that the homeless issue is another one that’s happening out there to those who’ve served,” he said.
“A number of them just need help and support out there to just get their lives back into order … after serving in our defence forces.”
This article first appeared on ‘‘ on 11 November 2014.