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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 11 Hansard (15 November) . . Page.. 3573..


MRS DUNNE (continuing):

be bothered. So we have actually had a change from things being criticised and described as being naff to having a born again greenie in the form of Mr Gentleman on the back bench.

The important thing today is that Saturday was Armistice Day and the 88th anniversary of the ending of the First World War. I am speaking today because one of the things that I contemplated on Saturday at the war memorial was what it is about Armistice Day, and Anzac Day even more so, that is so attractive to Australians that people never tire of going year after year to the war memorial to mark these important days.

When I got up on Saturday morning my young son said that he did want to go to the war memorial with me, that that was something that he looked forward to, and he sat fairly still for the duration of a very moving ceremony. I do not know why it is that he wants to participate in the ritual of going to the war memorial on these occasions, stand around and wait for the memorial to open, go and visit some of the displays and really take part in that sort of commemoration.

I had two moving experiences on that day. One was the splendid memorial address given by the Hon Brendan Nelson, the Minister for Defence. I was quite struck by the stirring exposition that he gave on the Australian character, as reflected in the exploits of Australians at war, particularly in the First World War, and also by his thoughtful reflections on the values that make us a nation. For the past four or five years there has been debate in Australia about values and it always sounds slightly corny and is always slightly cringe-making. I tend to shy away from discussions about values for those reasons. But it seemed that on a day like Armistice Day you could actually have that discussion in a way where people really paid attention to it because it was reflecting upon our history in a way that we had never been able to have in the context of an education debate.

The other moving experience was that when we went into the memorial we decided, seeing it was the second-last day of the exhibition, that we would go down to the Australians in France memorial. My son and I walked through and, as we were standing reading a display, an elderly couple came up and stood beside us. There was a uniform on display there and the elderly gentleman looked at it and said, "Yes, this is it."His wife turned to me and said, "This is my husband's father's uniform."So we had an elderly gentleman and his wife, a middle-aged lady, and her young son, three generations, linked by this uniform and that had an impact on my young son and me. It was quite emotional and it was a privilege for me to be able to say to these people, "Would you like me to take your photograph in front of this heirloom, this relic?"One of the things that Ms Porter talked about today was about preserving our past.

Also, the enthusiasm of the memorial staff showed through when they realised that this gentleman was there and appreciated his connection to the collection and to the exhibition. I think it is an element of what is important about Australians and it is a reflection of our history, which we do not reflect upon enough because we do not reflect on history at all. I think that what our children learn from these occasions is important and there should be more of that learning both in the home and in the schools.


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