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It is their dedication that we are thankful for this Christmas.

As a nation we like to think of ourselves as lucky, blessed. We like to think we are fortunate and brave.

But this year we have struggled. It feels like at every turn we have been kicked in the guts. And many of us are bruised, hollow, haunted.

Just in the last month a simple Monday morning changed violently, rapidly into 17 hours that changed our nation. Then just days later the deaths of eight children in Cairns, stabbed, allegedly by the mother of seven of them left us weeping.

Yesterday we watched silently as teams of volunteers removed the floral tribute in Martin Place, and as we saw these images we did not feel sadness anymore, but hope and pride in the unity of our nation.

removingflowersVolunteers begin removing flowers for the siege victims in Sydney’s Martin Place. (702 ABC Sydney: Brendan King)

Our nation that was left reeling when we lost 38 Australian citizens and residents when Malaysia Airlines M17 was shot down in July.

When the victims of the tragedy were broadcast on our screens we gazed at the faces of three small children from Perth – Mo, Evie and Otis Maslin and a small part of our bravery fell away.

Mo, Evie and Otis Maslin died Mo, Evie and Otis Maslin.

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It’s been the year where we anxiously watched the search for two small boys on two opposite sides of the country.

And even back in January 52 homes lost and the life of a 62-year old man when bushfires razed the Perth Hills.

And yet there has been a shining light in each and every single one of these times our nation was wounded.

A band of unknown Australians always there, always helping – the brave men and women of our emergency services. Beside every one of the families. Holding each and every one of the victims.

Pulling the hostages from the Sydney siege to safety. Searching desperately for a lost two-year old boy in Perth. Sifting through the wreckage of MH17 an Australian presence on the other side of the world.

Standing near. Standing tall. Strong and reliable. These are the men and women of our emergency services, of our police, our paramedics, our firies, our volunteers, our SES, our surf rescue.

And we want to say thank you.

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In September over 70 police and emergency services workers desperately searched for missing three-year old William Tyrell on the NSW mid-north coast.

Hundreds and hundreds of volunteers joined in. None asked. All just out of desire to help. And all desperate to make a difference.

In Perth only a few weeks ago police had to turn back volunteers in the search for another missing boy, Sam Trott. The tiny two-year old had wandered from his parent’s home. SES, fire brigade, police, the Salvation Army and the St Johns Ambulance all banded together to do their bit to find two-year old Sam.

It was a tragic outcome, and together with Sam’s family the nation grieved.

Sam Trott body foundSam Trott.

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And of course these are just the events we have heard about.

The lives of millions of Australians have been affected by tragedy, loss, sickness and danger this year.

And at every turn there was someone to help.

We don’t see their faces on the news and we don’t hear know their names.

But we know they are there, stoic and wondrous in their ability to keep us safe, buoyant, alive.

Sam Trott body foundWe don’t see their faces. We don’t know their names.

It is their dedication that we are thankful for this Christmas. We are thankful for the long hours of work and training they put in. For the tears they shed behind closed doors and the commitment and devotion to their jobs they show each and every day.

We thank them for the stretches of time away from their own families, the sacrifices they make.  For the danger they place their own lives in, travelling to war zones, attempting feats of rescue. And for their simply gestures such as handing a cup of tea to a weeping lawyer in Martin Place come to lay flowers as he remembers a colleague.

We thank them for all these reasons, and we wish to them a very safe and peaceful Christmas.

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