Prime Minister’s Address at Funeral of Private Gregory Sher

11 JANUARY 2009

To Greg’s family. To Felix. To Yvonne. To Barry. To Steven. To Karen. To his grandmas. To other members of his family. To his friends who are here today, more numerous than the stars. To his comrades in arms, who are here because he was one of them. And to you, members of the Jewish community who gave him so much of his nurture.

A few minutes ago, Felix asked me to say some words here. And I thank him for that great honour. Because when in Australia we lose one of our own, we as a nation desire to honour his memory as one.

It was my privilege, on the evening after Greg was killed, to speak with his family. It was my privilege because in his family I encountered such extraordinary strength and courage. Strength and courage nurtured not just by their love for him and their love for each other, but nurtured also by their great pride in what he had done in Australia’s name.

As I listened and I talked, I came away and said to my own family, we in Australia are privileged to have such a family among us.

I was recently in Tarin Kowt and I’m told by Felix that Greg was one of the many members of the commandos and others, whose hand I shook, and thanked him as I thanked others for their contribution to the cause for which we fight.

As I gazed into each of their eyes and spoke with as many of them as I could, I was reminded again of what a privilege it is that we in Australia have, our men and women in uniform representing us in theatres of conflict across the world, but holding high always the name of Australia and the ideals for which we stand, including the ideal of freedom.

Felix, to you and your family, on behalf of the Australian nation I say thank you. Thank you for his life. Thank you for his service. Thank you for his courage.

To you his friends, and to you his comrades in arms, I say thank you as well because you are also part of his nurture and you made him the man that he was, and is still in our memory.

To you the members of the Jewish community, who have given him so much of his nurture. Could I say to you as a community who over the centuries has known so much suffering, so much hardship, so much persecution, so much of that which is awful, to you this great community, I say thank you on behalf of a grateful nation.

In Greg’s life we celebrate the life of an Australian hero. He didn’t die in vain. He died because he believed not just in the service of which he was a proud member but in the ideals for which we are committed to that fight.

The ideals that people should be free. The ideals that they should also be free from the threat of terrorism. The ideals that all young people, all people, men and women, boys and girls, should have an opportunity for life to be lived to its full.

Those were the ideals for which he fought. Those were the ideals for which he died. And it is for that service that we honour him as a hero of Australia.

If I might conclude with the traditional saying, may God comfort you, the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. And may you his family know no more sorrow.