May 27, 2015

On Anzac Day this year we passed that moment when, exactly 100 years ago, our young Anzacs stepped off the boats under a breaking Gallipoli dawn.

That moment—and the many terrible ones to follow—are woven into our national identity because of what they were to reveal: the acts of courage, sacrifice, mateship and heartbreak. On that morning in 1915 this young army of volunteer soldiers was committed to an impossible objective along those chalky cliffs and ridges. For the next eight months, that place would be their mission and their home. It was here that the 'digger' came into being. Of course, it was a tactical blunder that put them there—one totally beyond their control. The eight-month bloody stalemate that followed was to no military gain.

The Gallipoli campaign proved to be a prelude to the much larger tragedy of the First World War between 1914 and 1918, with a shocking loss of life and dreadful injuries. One hundred years on, across Australia, in our cities, suburbs and towns, people of all walks of life gathered in record numbers to remember them. Importantly, we saw the next generation of young people take ownership of our commemorations like never before.

In my electorate of Jagajaga, a series of milestone projects were supported under the Anzac Centenary Local Grants Progam, announced by Prime Minister Gillard in April 2012

My local Electorate Committee has worked very hard to ensure that every resident has the chance to engage in our commemorations through to 2018. I thank all the members of the Electorate Committee including: Jeff Mawkes, Watsonia RSL; Bill Telfer, Greensborough RSL; Rob Winther from the Austin Repatriation Hospital; Fred Cullen, Ivanhoe RSL; and those who supported the work of the committee—Nillumbik Shire Council, Banyule Council, the Australian Army Signals Historical Foundation at Simpson Army Barracks, as well as our local historical societies.

A very special thanks must go to President Bill McKenna of the Montmorency-Eltham RSL. For two years, Bill has worked closely with each of our local RSLs, councils, local schools and my office. I would also like to particularly thank one of my electorate staff, Antony Kenney. Bill hosted planning meetings, knocked on doors and tied everything together. We got some tremendous projects delivered, including: a commemorative ceramic mosaic project depicting the human stories of Gallipoli, which will be at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital; a project to digitise precious film negatives from World War One Army Signallers at the Simpson Barracks in my electorate; an innovative project to install interpretive signage at the Kangaroo Ground Memorial Tower; and an extension to the War Memorial cenotaph in Eltham.

The Jagajaga Schools ANZAC Centenary Commemorative Service, led by local school students. It was held at Petrie Park, the home of the Montmorency-Eltham RSL. This event was supported by over 1200 students from six local schools, and I would like to thank them all: Loyola College, Eltham College, Catholic Ladies College, Montmorency Secondary School, Bundoora Secondary School and Ivanhoe Girls Grammar School. At Petrie Park that day we saw inspiring young future leaders from each of these schools play their part to spread a strong message of peace in our community.

The role of event MC was provided by James Hone from Montmorency Secondary College, our college captain and an extremely impressive young leader who steered the event through to conclusion. I extend my thanks to him for the central role he played. Campbell Wilson, also from Montmorency Secondary College, offered a very haunting performance of Flowers of the Forest on the bagpipes; Loyola College provided the catafalque and flag bearer party; Sean-Donehue from Eltham College sang an extraordinary rendition of Amazing Grace and also led their boys choir in the New Zealand National Anthem, and Sean sang the first verse of that anthem in Maori. Many commented on how powerful Sean's voice was for such a young man, and I know we will hear many more great things from him in the future. Eltham College also led the Australian National Anthem.

Keisha Healy and Malik Sitou from Bundoora Secondary College led the ANZAC Requiem, which is always, of course, a very moving moment; the Ivanhoe Girls Grammar School Chamber Choir sang a beautiful rendition of Here You Lie (Side by Side); the Catholic Ladies College led the Lord's Prayer and Laura Lazzara, from that great school, offered the Ode and Lest We Forget. The Heidelberg Brass Band provided the Last Post to cap off a very inspiring and stirring event.

This very successful event—like the rest that will follow—will help to spread the message of peace: that war is never something to be glorified, but that we take this opportunity, and will continue to do so, to acknowledge the sacrifice made by so many. As a community, we must always work towards enhancing peace, understanding and tolerance. Importantly, these projects will help shed new light on our local ANZAC stories and where possible reveal new ones, because our community has its own fascinating stories to tell. We have a local historian and resident, Terry Phillips, a man who has done enormous amounts of local research and has records that indicate the last man off Gallipoli came from Greensborough. One of the most prominent works of art commemorating fallen soldiers from the First World War in the Australian War Memorial, Menin Gate at Midnight, was painted by William Longstaff, an Eltham resident. William Longstaff served in the Australian Remount Unit in the Middle East, where his commanding officer was none other than Banjo Paterson. These are just two fascinating snippets of many local stories that will be told and retold through these projects, as we commemorate the Centenary of ANZAC through to 2018. Once again I would like to thank all of those involved for all the work they have done—especially our local RSLs and Bill McKenna in particular—to make this a very special time for all our local residents.