Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Mail Newspaper Column - Eye on the Past Century - 26 August 2014

As we commemorate the Centenary of Anzac as a nation, we are also rightly looking back 100 years in our local community.

The Federal Government’s Centenary of Anzac local community grants programme has allocated $125,000 to each federal electorate to commemorate and tell the local stories of a century past.

Here in our electorate I formed a Committee comprising 10 outstanding local residents led by the former Principal of Monbulk Primary School, former Councillor and Mayor of the Shire of Lillydale, Ray Yates.

A number of grants have already been approved, and more will be in the months ahead.

The first provided $5,200 for the plaques and storyboards at Lillydale Lake and Coldstream to commemorate the centenary of the Monash Camp of Instruction, that saw 3,000 future ANZACs travel to our district for a week long camp in February 1914 to prepare for a war they hoped would not eventuate.

On the day the rest of the nation reflected on the first shot in the War – fired from Fort Nepean – local residents met to unveil a plaque funded by another grant near the Montrose War Memorial to recognize the local aspect to that great event. Major Charles Morris, who gave the order to fire the shot, became a Montrose resident after the war.

And on Saturday 16 August the Lilydale community marked the 100th anniversary of the first Lilydale resident to enlist into the AIF at the Athenaeum Theatre.

Ralph Goode of Lilydale was a stretcher bearer who served at Gallipoli and on the Western Front. He returned to Lilydale where he married and raised his family, and became a tireless community contributor to a whole range of causes, including founding the Lilydale RSL.

A book compiled by Anthony McAleer with the help of a grant was also launched, telling Goode’s story and reproducing his meticulous diaries and letters from the front.

At War’s end in December 1918, Winston Churchill spoke to a group of Australian and New Zealand servicemen in London. He looked ahead to the Australia of today.

He predicted that at this time “that great [Australian] population will … seek out with the most intense care every detail of that struggle… when every family will seek to trace some connection with the heroes who landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula, or fought on the Somme, or in the other great battles in France; and when the names of the men who have won distinction by their valour, the men who have gained the Victoria Cross, will be preserved as sacred memories, and will constitute the claim in the mouths of generations yet unborn to the most honourable ancestry and origin which any human being could wish.”

His prediction has proved to be correct. As a nation we are focussing like never before on every World War I event, happening and battle in the sequence in which they occurred. From the first shot commemorations this year, Gallipoli next year – and then the Western Front until Remembrance Day 2018.

As a community we will, over the coming four years, shine a light back one hundred years and honour the locals who contributed so greatly.

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