Dr Brendan Nelson, Director of the Australian War Memorial, delivered the annual Australian Naval Institute's Vernon Parker Oration to a large audience in Canberra on 26 May.
His broad ranging oration was entitled: Changing Times, Lasting Values: the Men and Women who gave Australia its story.
Dr Nelson paid tribute to the men and women who have served, and continue serving the Australian Navy and Australian Defence Force.
President of the Australian Naval Institute, Vice Admiral Peter Jones, RAN (Retired) said the speech should be read by all Australians.
"Brendan Nelson's oration was one of the most remarkable in the Australian Naval Institute's history," Vice Admiral Jones said.
Vice Admiral Jones said that it was a most successful and moving oration which combined erudition and a deep knowledge, and understanding of the national spirit.
"It was warmly received by the Australian Naval Institute's membership and guests present."
Dr Nelson's tribute included Commodore Vernon Parker, the Australian Naval Institute's founder, who was representative of his generation of Royal Australian Navy officers and sailors who served so well and so far from home in both the Second World War and the Korean War.
He reflected on the story of Lieutenant Commander Robert Rankin and his crew of the Royal Australian Navy Grimsby class sloop HMAS Yarra, and her fight against hopeless odds in defence of her convoy in 1942. He saw in Rankin's courage and self sacrifice an example of John Stuart Mill's reflection that a nation must have a collective memory around which its identity can be built.
As a former Minister for Defence, Dr Nelson also spoke of the security issues that are developing in Australia’s region and the centrality of the enduring values that underpin Australia as a component of national defence. He pointed out that these are the same values enshrined in the windows of the Australian War Memorial which look down on the tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier. He quoted these 15 values, illustrated them and then added to them the Navy's contemporary values.
A full transcript of the oration will be available shortly on the Australian Naval Institute's website http://navalinstitute.com.au/