‘We owe them’: Albanese’s stirring message on Anzac Day

Record number of Australians travel to Gallipoli for Anzac Day

Anthony Albanese has made special mention of Indigenous troops who fought for their country in his first Anzac Day address as Prime Minister.

On the 108th anniversary of the landings at Gallipoli during World War I, thousands of Australians gathered at services across the country early on Tuesday.

Mr Albanese led tributes at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra where about 30,000 people attended a moving dawn service.

Mr Albanese said it was important to acknowledge the sacrifices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“We must acknowledge the truth that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who donned the khaki fought harder for Australia than Australia was sometimes willing to fight for them,” Mr Albanese said.

“Yet we learn, and we keep taking steps forward together.”

Likewise, Mr Albanese said Australia owed all its troops much more than just gratitude and “we must step up for them”.

He said many Australians had come home from war “only to face another battle within”, which was often not won.

“If we are to truly honour our veterans, we owe them something more than just gratitude. Just as they stepped up for us, we must step up for them,” he said.

Despite discrimination and exclusion, thousands of Indigenous people served on the ground, in the air, at sea and on horseback from the 1860s and possibly earlier, according to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies.

More than 1000 first nation peoples served in WWI and more than 4000 in World War II. At least 300 served in the Vietnam War.

But when they returned to civilian life they faced discrimination and prejudice, with many ejected from hotels and public places or denied employment and the benefits offered to other returning service personnel.

Dawn services were held on Tuesday morning in major cities, suburban centres and country towns, honouring the service of men and women in past conflicts and those serving today.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said Anzac Day was one of the most meaningful dates on the national calendar.

“The values for which we stand are more enduring than any conflict, as long as we have – like our forebears – the courage and commitment to defend them always,” he said.

This year’s Anzac Day march in Canberra also marked 30 years of Australian peacekeeping efforts in Somalia.

The march featured more than 120 veterans who served as part of Operation Solace.

Among those was Governor-General David Hurley, who commanded the 1RAR battalion group during the operation.

The governor-general lead the march and then served as the reviewing officer for the troops taking part.

This year’s Anzac Day also coincided with 50 years since the end of Australian involvement during the Vietnam War.

More than 500 Australians died during the conflict and over 3000 were injured.

Anthony Albanese delivers his first Anzac Day speech as PM at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Photo: AAP

Services were also held to mark Anzac Day in France, Papua New Guinea and Turkey.

Veterans’ Affairs Minister Matt Keogh, who will represent Australia at the Gallipoli dawn service, said the contribution of troops during the campaign would always be remembered.

“In the early light of dawn, when the Australian and New Zealand forces landed on Gallipoli on April 25, 1915, little did they know that they were making history, forming a legend that would resonate for generations to come,” he said.

“Even though more than a century has passed we will continue to honour their service, share their stories and remember their names.”

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