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Father Brendan Quirk, Principal Kevin Bryson, Veteran Mr. Ken Markos, teachers, students and parents.
It is an honour to be here this morning as St. Francis Xavier School commemorates Anzac Day.
On Anzac Day, we pause to give thanks for the sacrifice made by Australian soldiers during the First World War. Many young soldiers, some still in their teens, died in the war. Most Australian families lost at least one of their children.
Many of those that fought were very young, with some even lying about their age so they would be accepted as old enough to fight. This demonstrates that they were not veteran warriors. They were normal young Australians just like everyone in this hall today.
All of those that died were volunteers, animated by a deep love of country and their fellow Australian, and willing to put their life on the line for the peace of future generations.
Your school’s history is aligned to that of the ANZAC story. This school opened its doors in 1911 just before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, with just twelve students, innocent and bright, beginning their primary education at a time of global uncertainty.
Four years after the conclusion of the war, in 1922, the Archbishop of Sydney attended a fundraising day at your parish and reflected on the Great War that had just passed.
After four years of darkness and turmoil, he concluded that if the world had been more like the students of this school, there would have been no need for such suffering and conflict. He said “if only we could get all the boys and girls in here, it would be well for the country.”
The Archbishop concluded that the sound education children were receiving at St. Francis Xavier School was a safe haven, a light amidst the darkness of the world, and a “way to peace and prosperity” through the trials of a world war.
But it was by the bravery of the young men and women who served for Australia that this school and others like it was able to provide that light amidst darkness at all.
That light is the light of learning, cooperation, kindness and discipline. It is the light of working hard and persisting until you reach your goal, of looking out for your fellow Australians.
The Anzacs died so that this light could continue to shine, so that schools like this could continue to care for children, and provide them with safety, opportunity, and the Australian way of life. That is what the ANZACs gave their lives to defend.
If you all learn from their courageous example, dedicating yourselves to mateship, hard work, and selflessness, the spirit of the ANZACs will live on at St. Francis Xavier.
Today, let us appreciate the simple things that are easy to take for granted: the opportunity to go to school, to learn, and to play in peace. It is by the Anzacs’ struggle that such things are possible.
Lest we forget.