Former Victorian Premier Denis Napthine says the current Ukraine conflict is a reminder of the horror of war "but sometimes the unfortunate necessity to stand up for what we believe and what is important to us".
Dr Napthine addressed a crowd of about 600 people at a Port Fairy Anzac Day service on Monday. He said the Ukraine war was a timely reminder of the "absolute sacrifice" Australian servicemen and women over the past 125 years.
He also paid tribute to our First Nations people for their "significant contribution" in various conflicts over the last 150 years, as well as all personnel currently serving.
"We can't think about Anzac Day today without thinking about the terrible situation in the Ukraine," Dr Napthine said.
He said war was horrific, and it affected those directly involved in the conflict, as well as having an enormous and devastating effect on the entire community.
"Of course we have an obligation to do everything we can to prevent war wherever possible", he said, but sometimes there were times when conflict "simply cannot be avoided".
"There are times people are required to stand up and fight for our basic freedoms," he said.
"To fight for democracy, to fight for our country, to fight for our community and to fight for our family against bullies, thugs, and dictators.
"We're seeing that in the Ukraine and we've seen it over the centuries," Dr Napthine said.
He said like the people of Ukraine, Australian servicemen and women had "put their hands up to fight for freedoms - to make sure we have a free, democratic society here today and that's what we're here to commemorate".
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"We're commemorating all those women and men over the many years who fought when they had to fight, for our freedoms, our country, our community."
Dr Napthine said we lived in the best part of the world in the best country in the world.
"We do that because of the sacrifices made by people over the years, those courageous servicemen and women, we owe them an enormous debt.
"We say thank you to them," Dr Napthine said. "We say thank you to their families, we will never, ever forget. We commemorate them today. Lest we forget."
Dr Napthine also paid tribute to family members who served including his father-in-law who served in New Guinea in World War II and his dad's cousin Vin Napthine who served in World War I and was a doctor in Port Fairy after graduating from university. Dr Napthine's middle name is Vincent and he was named after him.
"Vin Napthine served in the Gallipoli campaign and he was service number 144 which shows how early he joined up," Dr Napthine said.
"He was officially listed at 19 years old, but we know from our own family records he was only 17 when he joined up.
"He left for Gallipoli on November 14, 1914 and was part of the Gallipoli campaign, fortunately during that tragic campaign he survived but was injured and returned home."
Port Fairy RSL sub branch president Doug Nolte led the service which included addresses from Port Fairy Consolidated School and St Patrick's Parish Primary School students.
The service included a performance by Barbara Brooks who sang the National Anthem, as well as a wreath laying ceremony and a minute's silence.
Mr Nolte said Anzac Day was one of Australia's most important occasions and it started in the 1920s.
"We remember those service personnel who are not with us today because of the sacrifice they gave to this country," Mr Nolte said.
"And those who have passed on since the terrible conflicts, the families who have lost loved ones and the suffering today that's happening overseas," he said.
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