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Remembering the Armenian Genocide this Remembrance Day

Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (09:57): Yesterday we commemorated Remembrance Day, marking both the
day the guns fell silent on the Western Front in 1918 and also further recognition of the Anzac Centenary.
It has been 100 years since our brave soldiers, together with their New Zealand mates, stormed the beaches
of Gallipoli in modern-day Turkey. We know that this was the saddest day in our history, but through their
deaths we experienced the birth of our nation’s consciousness. We had good reason for engaging with the former
Ottoman Empire in war, and history has shown that eight years following the Gallipoli campaign this empire
stood no more. The nation that grew out of the ashes is, of course, the modern-day Republic of Turkey. This is a
country with whom we have successfully moved from the dark past, just as we have with other former military
combatants Japan and Germany. We now recognise with honesty the sacrifices of those who came before us and
stand together in honouring their memories from both sides.

Yet we do not let that dark history impact on our modern-day relationships. It is therefore incumbent on us to
also recognise a further element of that dark moment in history—and that is, the eyewitness accounts of those
same Anzac soldiers of the persecution and eventual genocide of the Armenian people by the former Ottoman
Empire. The best estimates put the number of deaths at 1.5 million people, with the start date falling on 24 April
1915—one day prior to the landing of our Anzac troops, and most likely in a premeditated direct response to this
incursion out of the fear the Armenian Christian minority would collaborate with the Allied forces. This ‘Great
Crime’ started with the execution of the intellectuals and community leaders and was followed by the massacre
of the men and the deportation of women, children and the elderly on death marches through the Syrian desert.

Our own history, and that of the birth of our nation’s consciousness, is therefore directly tied up with the historical
fact that this was the systematic extermination and genocide of the Armenian people. I note the contrast between
our relationship with the former Ottoman Empire and the modern-day Republic of Turkey, because these are two
different nations. We should, therefore, not avoid recognising the historical truth of the Armenian genocide—
of the crimes committed by the former empire 100 years ago—out of fear that it will impact our relations with
modern-day Turkey. To do so serves to exacerbate the distress felt by the descendants of those who survived,
many of whom have started new lives in our great, free nation. To them, I say: yesterday, today and tomorrow
—lest we forget.