Remarks at the Shrine of Remembrance – Alan Joyce
It gives me great pleasure and satisfaction to be here today.
As CEO of Qantas, it’s an honour to present Denis with the First World War medals awarded to Paul McGinness, who together with Hudson Fysh founded our airline 92 years ago.
Paul McGinness was born in Victoria in 1896. Like so many young men of his generation, he came of age in a brutal war of unprecedented scale, far from home.
He enlisted at the age of 18 and fought as an infantryman in the Gallipoli campaign at 19.
Shot twice in the Charge at the Nek in August 1915, McGinness was one of only two survivors from his troop that day. In total, 234 Australians lost their lives and about 140 were wounded in a futile assault on Ottoman positions.
Tragically, most of their stories are lost to us today.
We can only imagine what McGinness felt and experienced in Gallipoli, but we can be thankful that his story endures and resonates to this day.
After Gallipoli he went on to the Middle East to train as a pilot with the Australian Flying Corps, and it was here that he discovered his great talent and passion for aviation, at one stage flying in support of Lawrence of Arabia.
It was probably here, too, that he first understood the potential of aviation to conquer the great distances of Australia. In the words of Hudson Fysh, who flew with McGinness in the AFC, McGinness was a ‘superb pilot full of dash and adventure’, credited with shooting down seven enemy aircraft.
For his skill and bravery in the war, McGinness was awarded the Distinguished Combat Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
No other Australian First World War serviceman is known to have been awarded both medals.
Having distinguished himself in war, in peacetime McGinness returned to Australia and became a driving force behind the establishment of a new form of transport.
Fysh – his partner in the new airline – said that McGinness, more than anyone, provided the initial spark for the formation of Qantas.
Together with Fysh, McGinness was Qantas.
He charted routes, flew aircraft, secured financial backing – including the vital support of Fergus McMaster – and won a critical mail subsidy from Prime Minister Billy Hughes.
McGinness left Qantas in 1922, shortly after operating the first Qantas air mail service, going on to farm, teach flying, and start a family. He served his country again in the Second World War.
He died in 1952, at the age of 56.
The air mail service that McGinnes founded with Hudson Fysh has become a global aviation business spanning six continents, employing more than 30,000 people, carrying tens of millions of people every year, and representing the highest standards in aviation; an Australian icon recognised around the world.
With his vision, determination, and skill, Paul McGinnes was the first of Qantas’ great leaders.
We commemorate and honour his role in founding Qantas.
At the same time, we commemorate and honour his bravery in war.
It was in that spirit that Qantas acquired the Paul McGinness medals in 2011.
We wanted to secure the medals, not just as a precious piece of Qantas’ history, but as objects of importance in our national history.
By working with Australia’s great museums and memorials, we want to help bring Paul McGinnes’ story to life for new generations – for people familiar with the history of First World War, for people interested in the origins of Qantas, and for people new to both subjects.
It’s fitting that McGinnes’ medals should be exhibited here in the Shrine of Remembrance, taking their place beside medals representing the valour and sacrifice of thousands of his fellow Victorians.
We’re delighted to be able to share them with you.
The medals themselves are already on display, and we’ll have a chance to go see them in a minute.
I’d like to take this opportunity to express our thanks to Denis and his team, on behalf of Qantas, for partnering with us in this important project.
I’d also like to acknowledge David Crotty and his team at Qantas for their hard work and expertise in bringing the McGinness medals to the public audience that they so richly deserve.