Major Andrew White (ret) was the mouthpiece for Canstruct’s ANZAC Day address on Nauru Island this year. With a military background spanning the better part of two decades, Andrew empirically understands the significance of ANZAC Day commemoration, which he aptly communicated to those in attendance. In a speech that emphasised the sacrifice and unselfish devotion of ANZACs past and present, Andrew also took time to acknowledge the tragic wartime history of Nauru. Andrew was intent on delivering an address inclusive of, and relevant to, the Nauruans, that also served to inform all attendees of the largely untold experiences of the Nauru people during the Second World War. Some reminders of their wartime suffering can still be found within the island’s landscape today. The full transcription of Andrew’s speech can be found below.
Today marks the anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli 103 years ago. Like hundreds of thousands of people who gather at memorials around the world – we gather here in Nauru for one of the most significant events in our national calendar.
By your presence here this morning, I know in your hearts and your minds that today is both special and significant. This day is a permanent reminder – that the ANZACs, stood for their countries ideals, freedom and way of life. The ‘ANZAC’ is not a place, nor is it a campaign or a war. And it is certainly not a ceremony or a parade. For many, 1915 represents Australia’s birth as a nation – where we were defined by our character, way of life, and resilience in the face of adversity.
The term ANZAC comes from the words Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. In the modern day I believe the term ANZAC has transcended the physical meaning to be something more spiritual – an inspiration that embodies the qualities of courage, discipline, sacrifice, self-reliance and in Australian terms, that of mateship and a fair go.
Gallipoli lasted eight and a half months. In that time 7,600 Australians and 2,500 New Zealanders were killed; and a further 24,000 were wounded.
Today, it would be remiss of me not to also acknowledge the loss and sacrifice of the Nauruan people as a result of war and hardship.
It is well documented that the Japanese troops occupied Nauru in 1942 during WW2. The Nauruans were poorly treated by the occupying forces and on one occasion 39 leprosy sufferers were loaded onto boats, towed out to sea, and sunk. In 1943 the Japanese deported 1,200 Nauruans to work as labourers in the Chuuk islands. Nauru was finally set free from the Japanese in 1945, and in 1946 those Nauruans sent to Chuuk were returned to Nauru. Sadly only 737 survived Japanese captivity. The remanence of this war still remains visible and scattered across this island and is a reminder of a time when Nauruans also made significant sacrifices for freedom and happiness.
We should not glorify war but we should recognise the sacrifice, commitment and unselfish devotion by those men and women who have served so bravely for their countries. And in many cases knowingly would have understood their fate. We pause today to acknowledge all current and former members of our defence forces – the men and women who represent our country on a daily basis. No Aussie or Kiwi is left untouched when a member of our defence force is injured or killed in action or as part of their duties. It is difficult to comprehend the grief associated with the loss at war. Let us also ensure that we remember the families that endure these losses.
Future generations also need to be reminded that happiness and freedom has a price. For surely if happiness is the product of freedom, then freedom is the reward of courage. We should be grateful to those that have helped preserve our nations and our way of life through their sacrifice. In doing so, we keep bright the memory of those lives. It is in the remembrance of these things that communities across the world come together on this day.
Lest We Forget