The Magna Carta Committee of Australia, with financial assistance from the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Commemoration Committee and other local organisations *, celebrated the 800th anniversary on 14 June with a ceremonial parade of the Federation Guard (an elite group of the Australian Defence Force comprising about 80 soldiers, sailors and air-force personnel) supported by the band of the Royal Military College, Duntroon, Canberra.
The event took place on a glorious sunny winter afternoon at Magna Carta Place, Canberra, adjacent to the Magna Carta Monument, which was established to mark the Centenary of Australian Federation in 2001 with substantial financial support from the UK Government.
The Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Tony Abbott MP, took the salute and inspected both the Guard and the Band, before speaking briefly to the 100 plus guests and members of the public about the importance of Magna Carta for Australian democracy.
The Hon Dr Brendan Nelson, Director of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and a former Defence Minister, spoke about the role of the Australian Defence Force over the last century in defending the freedoms and values which Australians hold dear and which stem in large part from Magna Carta.
Dr Nelson drew attention to the Memorial in Englefield Green, Surrey, which overlooks the River Thames and Runnymede Meadow. Known as the Air Forces Memorial, it commemorates 20,456 men from across the air forces of the British Commonwealth killed in operations during the Second World War.
He observed that:
“Inscribed onto the memorial are the names of 1,382 Australians who died fighting with the RAF while serving in the Royal Australian Air Force. None has a known grave. They died in defence of the truths upon which we pause here to reflect. We do so as free and confident heirs to a legacy conceived in a document signed 800 years ago, shaped in free democratic debate, forged in bloody self-sacrifice and passed now to our generation”.
Following the ceremony, a bronze plaque marking the event was unveiled after which guests enjoyed refreshments while the Prime Minister and Dr Nelson mingled with those attending
Other organisations included: *The Australia Britain Society Foundation and the Society’s ACT Branch; the Rule of Law Institute of Australia; the National Trust of Australia (ACT) and the National Capital Authority.
Magna Carta Place was established in 2000 in the heart of Canberra, the nation’s capital, to recognise the significance of Magna Carta in Australia’s parliamentary democracy, by the Australia-Britain Society with substantial financial support from both the British and Australian Governments. It contains a splendid monument which illustrates the history of Magna Carta and how it continues to be significant up to the present day.
Australia is privileged to possess an original 1297 version of Magna Carta, which is on public display in Parliament House, Canberra.
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