Firstly I’d like to pay tribute to Ted Baillieu for his tireless work as the Chair of the Victoria Anzac Centenary Committee.

I would also like to thank Martin Foley, the local state member, and the City of Port Phillip, in particular Mayor Amanda Stevens and Cr Bernadene Voss for making this event happen.

Whenever I visit an RSL club, no matter where it is in Australia, I almost always notice a picture of a WW1 ship leaving from Port Melbourne.

These photos, are important artefacts for all Australians, not just for our local history.

Here in modern Port Melbourne, with its high rise apartments and expensive restaurants, it’s sometimes hard to imagine what the suburb must’ve been like at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Although it might not have been a sought-after place to live, it was in fact Australia’s gateway to the world.

Marvellous Melbourne was Australia’s national capital, and this area was bustling with thousands of workers loading and unloading ships from around the world, and working in factories, mills and warehouses.

And, as Australia’s gateway, Port Melbourne played a pivotal role in Australia’s war effort between 1914 and 1918. According to the Australian War Memorial, in all, 95 ships ferried Australians and Australian war materials from Port Melbourne to war on the far side of the world.

In total 126,753 servicemen, medical staff, chaplains and other support personnel embarked from Port Melbourne. It was also to Port Melbourne that many fewer returned. More than 19,000 Victorians out of a total of more 60,000 Australians died during World War 1.

Such figures are almost impossible to comprehend today, but the sheer scale of Australia’s involvement in the First World War means that just about all of us have some connection to those who left these shores from where we stand.

My grandfather John Peek left from here for training in Egypt and landed in the first reinforcement in Gallipoli. John Peek got his commission on the battlefields of France, just as General John Monash did.

If you don’t have an ancestor who enlisted, then it’s very likely that there is a house on your street where an ANZAC once lived, or that a nurse who worked at the ANZAC hospital in Lemnos went to your school.

According to the National Archives, 3719 First World War servicemen were born just within the boundary of Melbourne Ports, and 1422 servicemen enlisted from within the area. Even for individual suburbs the numbers are large; for example 830 people born in St Kilda enlisted, 1180 born in South Melbourne joined up, while for the suburb of Port Melbourne itself, the number is 684.

A big theme of the commemorations over the next four years will be encouraging Australians to undertake research for themselves, and build connections of their own to the young men and women who went to war 100 years ago.

At the stalls around the pier you’ll find information about how you can begin your research. There is a lot of information out there, and it’s surprisingly easy.

It is only through building and maintaining these connections that we can ensure that ‘we will remember them’. Thank you.