Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Speech in Parliament: Centenary of Anzac - 25 May 2015

Mr TONY SMITH (Casey) (16:48): It is an honour and a privilege, as it has been for other members, to speak on the motion on the 100th anniversary of the landings at Gallipoli. It has been a time when all Australians have remembered, reflected and rededicated themselves to the memory of the first Anzacs. As we move through the four years of the anniversary of the war, we will continue to reflect and remember as the battles at Gallipoli through 1915 shifted to other parts of the Middle East and to the Western Front.

Australia's contribution to the First World War was monumental. From a population of just under five million, 400,000 joined up. One hundred and sixty thousand were wounded and 61,000 were killed. Forty per cent of all eligible men joined up. I mention those statistics because they tell so much of the story, but not all of it. They tell us that every community, every family, in every corner of our country was affected. But it is only when you look into the histories at the local level, as we have been doing in our local electorates, to the names of those 61,000 who lost their lives, that you can comprehend fully the effect on the families and the communities 100 years ago and in the years that followed.

I attended a number of services, as all members in this place did in the lead-up to Anzac Day, on Anzac Day itself and in the days since. I attended the dawn service at Lilydale. The cenotaph bears the names of 25 locals who lost their lives in World War I—25 young men who, 101 years ago, were walking the main street. They were young men in a young country with their lives ahead of them. When you look to the stories, you can imagine how the families and the communities were shattered at that time. Leonard Lawlor, whose name is on the cenotaph, was one of the 750 who were killed on the day of the landings.

Edwiin Poyner's name is on the cenotaph. The Poyner family had a large farm that is now suburban housing blocks, just north of the town. Ed joined up with his brother Frank on the same day and they served together on the Western Front. They were 25 metres apart when Ed was killed by a shell.

JD Burns was the son of the Presbyterian minister. He was an outstanding scholar and had penned the poem For England. He had won a scholarship to Ormond College but never got there because he joined up and he was killed in September at Gallipoli.

The other names on the cenotaph, Rankin and Goodall, were brothers-in-law. Chauvin and Briers were cousins. You think of the effect on those families and the town back then, and then repeated in each town and each suburb across the country. I mention this because some academics try to sum up the typical Anzac. Without being critical, when you look at the scale of it, it is a fruitless task because every community was involved, every family to an extent and every profession. And that scale 100 years on is hard to comprehend.

The Yarra Valley was home to one Anzac who was awarded the Victoria Cross, George Ingram. I will say he does have some of the characteristics of the typical Anzac. His family story is the story that we can find in other corners of Australia that was all too typical for back then. He was one of the first to join up. He was sent to Rabaul and he got malaria, so he was sent back to Australia and discharged. He rejoined five hours later by changing his middle name—he confused the authorities and he has confused every local historian ever since. His brother Frank joined up in New Zealand and his brother Alex joined up. They had been a family of four. They had a sister but she died at a young age. Ronald and Alex saw action on the Western Front before George managed to get back there but both Ronald and Alex were killed, leaving George as the only son. He was awarded the VC in the last month of the war.

One hundred years on, the Anzacs would be amazed at a number of things. They would be amazed at the technological advances in the world and the progress in our country. They would be very proud that the values they believed in and they were fighting for have endured George and that Australia, which was a very young democracy back then, has succeeded and developed in the way it has. They would be very humbled that we are not only remembering them but remembering them in such numbers 100 years on. As all members here attending services would agree, they would be especially touched at the school children attending the services playing a part, because they are our nation's future and that was what they were fighting for.

In the time available, I want to mention some of the schools and some of the students who played such an important role at the services. I want to mention Ruskin Park Primary School and Bimbadeen Heights Primary School, who have a service every year in the lead-up to Anzac Day and did on Anzac Day eve. Yering Primary School always has a service in the days following Anzac Day. I want to thank the RSLs and community groups who hosted services in the lead-up to Anzac Day or launches of local Centenary of Anzac grant commitments. For the Yarra Junction Avenue of Honour, I want to thank Rob Worlley and Lorraine Green and Rhonda Simmons. I would also like to thank Gladysdale Primary School, Upper Yarra High School, Wesburn Primary School and Yarra Junction Primary School, who were all part of that service.

For the Healesville RSL Avenue of Honour service held on 17 April, I want to thank the school captain of Healesville High, Maddison Wilson, and the senior leader, Kiera Heatherich. I want to thank Birmingham Primary School, Monbulk Primary School, Mount Evelyn Primary School and The Patch Primary School, who participated in the Bells of Peace project. I want to thank the Millwarra Primary School, Warburton Primary School and the RSL president from Warburton, Jamie Thomas and Coral Reynolds, the commemorations coordinator, who conducted a very touching service on the launch of the Gallipoli Wall in Warburton. As a community, we will continue to remember and reflect with only the intensity a centenary can bring.

In closing, I want to thank the RSL president from Mount Evelyn, Roger Boness; the RSL president from Lilydale, Don Parsons; and local historian and member of my Centenary of Anzac committee Anthony McAleer, who determined in the days leading up to Anzac Day that not only would they have the best service possible but they would have an individual service on the 100th anniversary of the death of each local Anzac. They had one on Anzac Day for Leonard Lawlor, who I mentioned. They had one in Wandin the day after Anzac Day for Frank Nicholls, a local from Wandin. Just last Friday, I was pleased to attend a service in Mount Evelyn for William Aicher, who was killed on 8 May at Gallipoli. Anthony McAleer gave the address there, giving us an insight into his life as a local—and a rich life it was—in Melbourne and in the Mount Evelyn community. William Aicher was the son of German immigrants. He joined up as one of the first Anzacs.

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