Of 36,400 Australian servicemen and women who have been prisoners of war during conflicts across the globe stretching from World War I to the Korean War, there are just 10 remaining.
Although their numbers dwindle, memories of the courage, sacrifice, mateship and resilience they showed during captivity stays strong.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Governor General David Hurley and a host of other dignitaries attended the 20th anniversary of the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial in Ballarat's South Gardens on Sunday, the first time a sitting prime minister has attended the annual ceremony.
"It's been a great honor to be the first prime minister to be here at what is a very important ceremony, one in which we ensure that the story continues to get told of our former prisoners of war who served our nation the men and women who wore our uniform ... serving our nation overseas and who were captured, incarcerated and subject to such hardship," Mr Albanese said.
Mr Albanese told the crowd of his relationship with "mentor, friend and father figure" Tom Uren, a politician who was deputy leader of the Australian Labor Party in the 1970s following years held as a prisoner of war during WWII.
Mr Uren was a Japanese prisoner of war who survived not only the brutality inflicted upon prisoners of war building the Thai-Burma Railway but also the "crimson sky" of Nagasaki when the atom bomb was dropped.
"Our nation's history has been shaped and it's been changed ... and an important part of our past is here at the Australian Ex-Prisoner of War Memorial which speaks of a different chapter of our national story," he said.
"I always think how wonderful it is that Tom endured such years of depravity and cruelty but emerged as a tower of humanity."
Host Bruce Roberts said each of the 36,400 names etched onto the memorial were part of a "community formed behind enemy lines" with their descendants and supporters keeping that community alive.
"In capture they created a community to protect each other," he said.
More than 50,000 people a year visit the Ballarat memorial.
Governor General David Hurley told the story of one of the names on the memorial, his uncle gunner Reginald Crimmins who enlisted on June 10, 1940, deployed to Malaya in 1941 and reported missing in March 1942. The International Red Cross listed him as a POW in May 1943, and again in June 1945 before he was recovered from Japan in September 1945 and discharged, on his own request, in January 1946.
"(They) enlisted to serve their country, put on a uniform and many of them went overseas. Their capture and detention did not diminish their service. It enabled them to live out the Anzac legacy to the full: endurance, mateship, courage and sacrifice we just saw it play out in a different way."
He said the families of prisoners of war also exhibited those same qualities and supported those who desperately needed it during difficult days.
Leaders paid tribute to the men and women, their families, and those who supported them with dozens of wreaths placed and books donated in their honour.
Following the service, Mr Albanese visited Sovereign Hill to inspect some of its extensive collection including one of the oldest processional dragons in Australia, the 127-year-old Loong for Lunar New Year.