Speech at the Australian Women's Land Army Reception, Parliament House
MON 20 AUGUST 2012
E & OE
Women of the Australian Women’s Land Army, I’ve been told to refer to you as the Land Army Girls. So from the Head Girl, I’m very pleased to be with you today for this very, very special occasion.
I’m pleased that so many of you were able to come to Canberra. I’m sorry it’s so cold, but we’ve put some sunshine on for you to show you that with the sun shining you are going to receive a very warm welcome.
And you’re here in Canberra to be recognised in the capital of the nation you served so well.
I’m aware that some of you have journeyed a long way to be here, I’ve talked to people from many parts of the nation, so hello.
And that long journey here might have been filled by memories, as you journeyed, of all those years ago, when you journeyed from your homes and families to the farms and fields where you were needed the most.
You went to take up the work of the men who had left for the front. Some of them were your fathers, brothers, or even sons.
In doing so, you brought victory closer, just as if you had picked a rifle yourself.
Now I know a thing or two about working in traditionally male domain.
But the life I’ve been privileged to lead is only possible because women of courage like you were there first; in the tough years, the desperate years, when the nation faced its ultimate test.
You helped Australia pass that test.
And today – here in the nation’s heart – we thank you.
I know it’s been a long time coming, these words of thanks, and so I pay tribute for the advocacy to get us here today, the advocacy from Parliamentary Secretary Senator Jan McLucas who has just spoken so beautifully, and before her, Maxine McKew.
To Senator John Faulkner, who’s played such a role in getting us here today, my thanks. And to the wonderful Peggy Williams who always had faith that her campaign would succeed.
The campaign has succeeded and it has succeeded with the full measure of our gratitude today.
Ladies, each of you will return home with these certificates graciously signed by the Governor-General, and with booklets created by the Australian War Memorial and, above all, with a commemorative brooch to wear.
I know you will wear those brooches with a great deal of pride.
And I really hope, I genuinely hope they prompt younger Australians to ask you what they mean, because you’ll be able to tell them.
You’ll be able to say ‘I answered the nation’s call. I stood up to be counted when Australia needed help the most.’
And a new generation will learn of the remarkable things you did and the remarkable women you are.
So today, on behalf of all Australians, I thank you for your generosity and your service.
The Australian Women’s Land Army has achieved a lasting place of honour in the history of our nation.
May it be celebrated – truly celebrated – for many years to come.
Thank you very much.