Australian troops who served in Iraq were celebrated at a welcome home parade on Saturday that also marked the withdrawal of the country's combat operations in the war zone.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was among thousands of people who attended the parade through the northeastern city of Brisbane, which was temporarily cordoned off, as some 700 troops in desert camouflage uniforms and the Australian army's distinctive hats marched by.
"Freedom is not for free. Freedom comes at a price. And you are our front line and the defence of our freedom, and for that I thank you," Rudd told the troops and their families, who had gathered to hear him speak after the parade.
Australia, one of just three countries to send troops to join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, ended combat duties for its soldiers in Iraq this month.
Rudd was elected last year on a promise to bring Australia's 500 combat troops home.
"Today the Australian nation says thank you to the men and women of the Australian defence force, for your service in Iraq," Rudd told the troops.
About 1,000 Australian troops remain in the Middle East in roles supporting the war in Iraq. Australia also has about 1,000 troops in Afghanistan.
The troops who marched Saturday all served in southern Iraq, where the Australians held key security roles and undertook training of Iraqi forces.
Just one Australian soldier died in Iraq, in an accidental shooting.
The parade was the first of three scheduled parades to welcome home troops from Iraq.
The other two will be held next Saturday in Darwin, and then on July 20 in Townsville.