Mr John Thurgar, National President of the Australian Bravery Association, and Mrs Thurgar, Governor General Air Commodore Royce Thompson, Principal Royal Australian Air Force Chaplain
Bravery Award recipients, family and friends
Ladies and gentlemen
Marlena and I warmly welcome you all to Yarralumla this morning for this ceremony of remembrance and recognition of service to others. This is a significant year – the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the bravery awards by Her Majesty the Queen – such a crucial part of the Australian Honours System.
It has been said that true bravery is shown by performing, without witness, what one might ultimately be capable of doing before the entire world!
It is of interest to know that since 1975 there have been 5 Crosses of Valour awarded, along with 118 Stars of Courage, 753 Bravery Medals, 1139 Commendations for Brave Conduct, and 47 Group Bravery Citations.
And today we honour those amongst us, for the extraordinary things they have done as Australians – for adding so richly to our national life and with such meaning by their heroic actions.
We reflect too on those who have died tragically while showing remarkable courage, on the people who have been rescued, and on the many Australians, military and civilian, whose selfless acts of courage and heroism are not recorded.
The serenity of this occasion contrasts noticeably with other events that draw Australians together in huge numbers and that also engender pride in our nation – those great sporting events and significant celebrations of national achievement.
Yet we are strengthened immeasurably on quiet occasions such as this, when we pause to reflect on the great courage of so many individuals and the blessings we share in common as a nation.
My predecessor, Sir William Deane, saw the potential of this garden area – foreseeing its transformation from a nondescript collection of shrubs with an ugly cyclone wire fence and a set of steps which ended in a semi-permanent pool of muddy water.
The Bravery Garden keys into important aspects of our national life – in particular the act of placing the interests of others before self.
The positioning of the message plaques emphasises the Southern Cross, and in so doing establishes the link with our great southern land and the values that we hold dear as Australians.
Through drought, bushfires and other natural disasters, defending freedom, offering assistance at home and abroad, we have always believed in helping people in need; it’s part and parcel of our national ethos.
And much of that help has been by way of acts of great bravery, involving high personal risk of injury or even death.
The Bravery Garden stands out conspicuously as a place to remind us all, of the courage (both physical and moral) displayed by many in our community, and affirms our deep respect for the critical and generous choice they have made in ‘not looking the other way’, often in times of considerable danger.
Many thousands of visitors to Government House wander through this garden, take in the messages on the stone pillars, and seek the support and comfort the jarrah benches provide, as they spend time in personal reflection. As surely as any grand monument, this simple, quiet garden conveys, in a most enduring way, a nation’s respect and gratitude for the bravery of Australians.
Marlena and I are delighted to see so many recipients with your families and friends. Many of you have travelled long distances, and we thank you for being here to make this a special occasion. We hope that each of you, in your own way, will take away something special from today’s service, and from the friendships begun and renewed by your presence.
To John Thurgar and his executive, congratulations to you all on the wonderful work you do in supporting your members. I commend the way you are representing the interests of the recipients of National Bravery and Gallantry Awards, together with awards made through such important groups as the Royal Humane Society, Surf Lifesaving, and the Police and Emergency Service organisations.
Ladies and gentlemen.
Marlena and I look forward to meeting you shortly, and we hope that you will take with you happy memories of your morning at Government House. Please enjoy the occasion.