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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 11 Hansard (Wednesday, 23 September 2015) . . Page.. 3463 ..

He is probably watching us from somewhere up there today and saying to himself, “What is the real issue here? What we want is for everyone just to enjoy their football.” He would probably add, “Woden Weston Football Club, reach your potential.”

I trust that John’s legacy is that more parents make the effort to be involved, not just for their own children but for the betterment of the community. John did not let his illness prevent his contribution. I thank him for his selfless contribution to sport in the ACT. I know there are many football players in this town and the wider Australian community who owe a debt of gratitude to John Brooks, who selflessly gave up his time to make a difference. I am grateful to have had the privilege of knowing him and being regarded as a friend. Vale John Brooks.

Battle for Australia

DR BOURKE (Ginninderra) (5.58): Earlier this month I was privileged to attend a ceremony at the Australian War Memorial commemorating the Battle for Australia. The Battle for Australia commemorates the time during World War II in which Australia, with the help of its allies, defended itself against imperial Japan. The commemoration is held on the first Wednesday in September to mark the first significant defeat of Japanese forces on land by Australian forces in the battle of Milne Bay in 1942.

The two world wars drew Australia into the chaos of Europe, but in 1942 and 1943 the Australian continent itself was directly threatened. Darwin and other northern towns were bombed and strafed. Enemy submarines sank dozens of merchant ships off the Australian coast. Mini-subs even entered Sydney Harbour. Many Australians lost their lives defending their country only a short distance from home on the Kokoda Trail, at Milne Bay and in many other lesser known theatres of conflict in the region. Allied servicemen and women likewise suffered heavy losses fighting to keep Japanese forces from advancing on Australia.

At this year’s ceremony, organised by the Battle for Australia Commemoration National Council, it was great to see so many veterans, schoolchildren, members of the military community and members of the diplomatic community all gathered at our national memorial to reflect on the courage and sacrifice of those who defended Australia at the most dire of times. A very moving part of the ceremony was that while the Australian Rugby Choir sang I Am Australian, accompanied by the Royal Military College band, local students, including those from St Francis Xavier College in Florey, constructed a wattle wreath on behalf of the youth of Australia.

The Battle for Australia takes on a particular poignancy by virtue of just how close Australia would have come to domination by imperial Japan had events transpired differently. The lessons of war and history will always demand our attention—the fragility of peace, the unpredictability of war, the value of strategic thinking. But even leaving that aside, it is important on a national and communal level to reflect on moments of national trauma, sacrifice and courage. When children are taught at school about the wars of the 20th century, it is not just history for history’s sake; it is about encouraging that reflection and appreciation of the gravity of war.

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