The Great War was the crucible that forged our nation. That is why the Centenary of Anzac is such a significant period of commemoration for all Australians.
On 25 April, marking the official 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign, residents of Leichhardt commemorated this significant time with a range of events and projects. Today I would like to take the time to acknowledge a whole range of people who have made an invaluable contribution in so many ways.
A key component of our Anzac Centenary commemorations has been the ability to support individual projects to the tune of $125,000 in total per electorate. In Leichhardt, we had a very capable local grants committee made up of:
– Richard Stoker, a historian and archivist with the Douglas Shire Historical Society-and, interestingly enough, a direct descendant of the captain of one of our first submarines in the First World War, submarine HMAS AE2, which actually sank during that Gallipoli campaign;
– Jodie Duignan-George, then general manager of James Cook University;
– Jim Fay, the secretary and treasurer of the Cooktown RSL Sub Branch;
– Mr Phil Warwick, a committee member of the Cairns RSL Sub Branch; and – Steven Brain, a councillor at Cairns Regional Council.
The committee members took significant time out of their very busy schedules to read through the applications, to assess them against the criteria, to provide feedback at the committee meetings, and to make recommendations to the Department of Veterans' Affairs. I would like to thank them very much for their efforts.
In terms of successful projects in Leichhardt, it was great to see a mix of traditional ideas and innovative concepts. I would particularly like to recognise the following people:
– Maureen Cameron, Head of Music at St Andrews Catholic College in Cairns-and Maureen was also the organiser of Catholic Education Services' Anzac Reflections production, a performance of music and verse which coincided with the installation of 13,000 perspex stakes on the lawns of the Bishop's House in Cairns, each stake with a personally written name and a reflection about World War I;
– Jim Fay and other committee members of the Cooktown RSL Sub Branch, who replaced the existing First World War memorial archway at Cooktown's Anzac Park, which was dangerously run-down; and
– Alisa McKinley and members of the Mother of Good Counsel School Parents and Friends Association, for establishing an Anzac Living Memorial Garden in the school grounds on Sheridan St. The garden will feature panels and artwork designed by the students and a memorial bench for quiet reflection.
– Pauline O'Keefe, a driving force at the Cairns Historical Society, who organised an exhibition titled Far North Queensland Remembers World War One in April 2014. I attended the opening night, and it was an excellent event which gave a real insight into life in Cairns during World War I, with restored photographs, memorabilia and performance art.
– Wally Grey and Ron Savage, secretary and president of the Mossman RSL Sub Branch, and other volunteers erected a beautiful memorial in the grounds of the Mossman RSL.
– Melanie Piddocke and Jacqui Collins-Herrmann from James Cook Museum in Cooktown organised a permanent exhibition recognising the activities and involvement of Cooktown residents in World War I-and I had the opportunity to visit the museum in April, and it was great to see some of the memorabilia that has been restored and researched and that will form part of that permanent exhibition.
– Naomi Warriner, the head of humanities at Trinity Anglican School, organised to borrow two World War I Memorial Box resources from the Australian War Memorial. This is the first time that Far North Queensland will have access to these resources, which will be hosted at the new Australian Armour & Artillery Museum in Smithfield-and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the founder, Rob Lowden, for taking on this role.
These local projects will have a lasting impact and will be a reminder of this very important period for many, many years to come.
There are a number of other projects and accomplishments that I would like to acknowledge today.
– Bill Winfield, a long-time friend, is now involved with the Masonic Lodge in Gordonvale. The lodge had wanted to do something a little bit different, and so very generously organised for a performance of the play Private Ginger Mick at Gallipoli to come to Cairns-I am sure you would recall that, Mr Acting Deputy Speaker Jones, as he had organised that play to come from Townsville to Cairns.
In conjunction with the play, Bill organised an essay competition for local school students, and I attended the presentation at the Cairns RSL sub-branch. Congratulations to Matisse Reed from St Monica's College, who won the competition, and to runners-up Soraya Houghton, Kiara Guest and Elizabeth Honnef, all from Gordonvale State High School.
– The major art installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London marked 100 years since the first full day of Britain's involvement in the First World War. Leslene Woodward is a former Cairns resident now living in London. She purchased one of the fundraising poppies and generously donated it to the Cairns RSL, so the Cairns community have their own piece of this internationally recognised event.
Unfortunately, even though it was packaged very carefully, one of the petals broke in transit. Luckily, we have a fabulous local artist-Jennie Scott of the Cairns Art Society-who was able to carry out a wonderful repair job. I handed this beautiful poppy over to David Clifton, President of the Cairns RSL, and it will form part of a new display at that RSL.
– I was certainly honoured to take part in the inaugural Anzac memorial walk retracing the enlistment drive of young men who walked from the Lions Den Hotel in Rossville to Cooktown.
Congratulations again to Jim Fay, Secretary and Treasurer of the Cooktown RSL sub-branch, the other organisers, my teammates from the Cooktown RSL team, and the management and staff of the Lions Den Hotel, who hosted us on Friday night and cooked up a 'breakfast of champions' on Saturday morning. Two of my wonderful staff-Heather Beck and Karen-were also on that walk; they came with me and it was great to have both of them on board. I have to concede I did not quite make that distance; I had problems with my shoes. Nevertheless, I was there at the start and well and truly there at the finish.
It was very poignant to have a photograph pinned to my shirt in memory of a serviceman from the Cooktown area. I certainly hope to see that event repeated in the future. It was very successful and very well supported.
– On Anzac Day, I again marched behind the RAAF banner in Cairns and attended the Anzac Day service at Fogarty Park. This year, I helped the regional council bring a Turkish armed forces representative, Colonel Ozkan Ulutas, to Cairns for the event. He was one of only three Turkish armed forces personnel who came to Australia, and he recited Ataturk's commitment that is inscribed on the Anzac Cove memorial, which was amazing. It was phenomenal to have him standing there at the podium, reciting Ataturk's declaration; it certainly added to the event.
I would also like to acknowledge the members of the Cairns Sikh community, who walked around handing out bottles of cold water-a great relief in the hot sun. They distributed pamphlets outlining a lot of the work that was done by the Sikhs then. Of course, they were very much part of supporting us during that time of need.
I went to the Torres Strait, and I was honoured to present one of our last surviving members of the Torres Strait Light Infantry-Mr Mebai Warusam-with his service medals. It was just great. He is 91 years old. He was part of the Torres Strait Light Infantry. It was important that we were able to offer support to him.
In no way should the Centenary of Anzac glorify war, but it should recognise what is best in the human spirit and what is noblest in our human character and acknowledge that the worst of times can bring out the best in us.
From now until 2018, I urge everyone to find out about the events, marches and services that are taking place in our communities and seize this opportunity, as it will be unique in our country's history.