G'day and Merry Christmas to everyone in our Australian Defence Force.
You know, throughout our history, successive Australian governments have called on our ADF to respond to the most difficult and challenging of circumstances. And this year was no different.
We've made repeated calls on our defence forces, but especially here at home.
During our Black Summer of fires, we called on you to help keep Australians safe.
Our Army, our Navy, our Air Force were all deployed, flying through orange skies to reach fire affected communities and areas.
On Mallacoota Beach the relief was palpable when the HMAS Choules emerged from the smoke that blanketed the ocean. For those who had been through harrowing days and sleepless nights the arrival of our ADF was the sign that everything was going to be OK.
We called on you again in response to a once in a century pandemic, an unexpected challenge. But where once again the skill, adaptability and professionalism of our ADF was put to work keeping Australians safe.
Right now, there are some 1,500 ADF personnel spread across the country as part of Operation COVID-19 assist. And throughout the pandemic, more than 6,500 servicemen and women had delivered vital care and support to all states and territories.
But the work that we do overseas continues as well. This Christmas, nearly 1,500 Australian servicemen and women are deployed overseas. From Africa to the Middle East, Afghanistan and the Pacific.
We know you're far from home. You're upholding our nation's interests. You're defending our values. You are shining lights of our country.
This year, we also commemorated two historic events. The 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the awarding of the Victoria Cross for Australia to Ordinary Seaman Edward 'Teddy' Sheean.
At these events I had the opportunity to reflect on the extraordinary men and women of those times. Why did they join up? What caused them to make the selfless decisions that they made? How did they keep going under such relentless pressure? From where did they draw their strength?
Now, I have no easy answers to those questions, but I know you have special insights. They found an abiding strength through living for others. For country, for family, for mates and comrades.
Your service, your choices, your life, your service embodies not only who we are, but who we can be: strong, courageous, selfless, driven by our love of family, community and, of course, country.
This Christmas, I really want to honour your service, your choices, your abiding and selfless patriotism.
The respect that Australians feel for our Defence Force men and women and our veterans is earned. You've earned it through your service.
That cannot be taken away from you and never should. We respect and give thanks for the life of service that you have chosen.
On behalf of Jenny and my family and my government, and as a proud nation, I want to wish all of you and all of your families who share in your service a very Merry Christmas and a happier, and let's hope a more peaceful and prosperous 2021.