(12.30pm, Thursday 25 April 2013, Treasury Bar, Sydney Town Hall)
Thank you, Rod. Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome back to Town Hall. I'd like firstly to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the people of 200 nations who live in our City.
I am pleased we can host you here at Town Hall this year, as we have almost every year since 2007. It gives you an opportunity to meet again with your comrades in this small, unique band of Under-16s, and it gives us the opportunity to pay our respects to you, to honour the contribution and sacrifices you made.
It is almost impossible for most of us today to imagine what your experiences must have been and how deeply they must have marked your lives since.
Some of you did not survive the war. Thankfully, many did - surviving not only the war, but in some cases, prison camps and dreadful labour on the Burma Railways or in Japan.
Perhaps for many of you the memories of those times were too difficult to share, even with those you love most.
So this remarkable group gives you the comfort and ease of being with those who need no explanation because they, too, were the audacious, foolhardy, heroic young men who forged parental signatures, who lied, who dressed in their grandpa's work trousers to make themselves look older, who made sometimes repeated attempts - once they were discovered for the first time - to do their bit in the fight for their country.
I am pleased to hear that the "Respect and Responsibility" program is going from strength to strength, with Brett Murray and Will Davies - author of Beneath Hill 60 now involved.
The program is having a real impact on teenagers, on boys of this generation who are now about the age you were when you went to war.
I congratulate John Miller and all those involved in putting the program together and offering such a positive way forward for young men today.
I also want to pay tribute to those members of the Under-16s who have been lost since we last met.
- Keith Sims, from Erskine in Western Australia
- Bill Phillips, OAM, from Coffs Harbour, NSW
- Roland Griffiths-Marsh, MM, from Bribie Island in Queensland and
- Bruce Campbell, from Hastings Point, NSW.
We mourn their passing but as Roland's widow, and your Members' Advisor, Maayken, has said, the organisation remains strong and the families of those men remain very much part of the Under-16s.
And on a happier note, I'm pleased to tell you that one of your number, Tom Kirkham, who's here today with his grand-daughter, Michelle, has been chosen as one of the eight war veterans to represent Australia at the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic in England in May. Congratulations, Tom.
Once again, to all of you, it is good to see you here, and I wish you a peaceful day together.