On Remembrance Day I encourage Australians to reflect on those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defence of our nation in the Pacific. The first Australian action and loss of life in the First World War occurred when troops from the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force landed in Rabaul (then in German New Guinea) to search for and destroy German radio stations on 11 September 1914. The six Australians who died were the first of more than 60,000 Australians killed in the Great War.
In 2017 Australia commemorated the 75th anniversaries of the battles of the Coral Sea, Guadalcanal (Solomon Islands), Milne Bay, the Kokoda Track campaign and the Battle of the Beachheads (Papua New Guinea). These actions were turning points in the Pacific war.
I was proud to join the recent ceremonies in Guadalcanal. In 1942 Royal Australian Navy ships provided vital support to Allied troops during the liberation of Guadalcanal from Japanese forces. Eighty-four Australians died when the HMAS Canberra suffered critical damage off Savo Island on 9 August 1942.
Last week I visited Kokoda to pay tribute to the courage and sacrifice of Australian and Papuan service personnel who fought to stem the Japanese advance.
The fighting along the Kokoda Track from July 1942 to November 1942 was in some of the most difficult terrain and conditions Australian soldiers have ever fought in. More than 600 Australians were killed and 1,600 were left sick and wounded. The battle of the Beachheads from November 1942 to January 1943 cost more than 1,200 Australian lives. Papuan carriers, the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, provided enormous support, including carrying injured soldiers from the battlefield. I encourage everyone to observe a minute’s silence at 11am and to wear a red poppy to honour all Australians who have served and in memory of those who have died or suffered in all wars and armed conflicts.