May 28, 2015

Motion – Centenary of Anzac

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (13:14): The Centenary of the Anzac landing at Gallipolli on 25 April provided an opportunity for our nation to reflect upon war, patriotism and the nature of sacrifice. From older Australians whose fathers or grandfathers were veterans of Gallipolli or other conflicts in World War I, to younger Australians who enjoy the freedoms that have been preserved by their sacrifice, our nation stopped to remember. The crowds were huge, not just at the dawn service on the beaches of Gallipolli, and not just at the huge Canberra service, but in cities and towns right across the nation, including in my electorate of Grayndler. They were recognising not just the diggers themselves but the women who served in support roles like nursing, as well as those who toiled on the home front, and the thousands of widows and orphans left after the conflict. On 25 April, Australians reflected on the terrible toll of war. The statistics tell us just how terrible it was. At Gallipoli there were 26,111 Australian casualties, including 8,141 deaths. Across World War I, out of a population of less than five million, 61,522 Australians lost their lives.

The historical facts surrounding the Gallipoli landings are well-known. Australians landed Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915 and established a foothold on the steep slopes above the beach. Concerted but unsuccessful allied attempts to break through in August included the Australian attacks at Lone Pine and the Nek. All attempts ended in failure for both sides, and there was a stalemate for the remainder of 1915. The most successful operation of the campaign was the evacuation of the troops on 19 and 20 December under cover of a comprehensive deception operation.

It is often said that the Gallipoli campaign established Australia’s sense of identity. It certainly is the case that the diggers showed extraordinary mateship and loyalty towards each other. Through their egalitarianism, the diggers exemplified the values of equality and the fair go that underpin contemporary Australian values. One thing about getting older is that it gives you the opportunity to observe changes in social patterns and values over time. When I was young, the annual Anzac Day marches were always led by Gallipoli and First World War veterans. First they were marching; later they were in jeeps because they were too frail to march. But, as I grew older, there were fewer diggers each year. I often wondered during that period what would happen when all the World War I diggers were gone. I wondered how future generations would view these veterans when they were no longer alive to lead the parade.

Decades later, the level to which successive generations have embraced the Anzac legend is extraordinary. Indeed, Anzac Day continues to thrive. Parents pass the legend down through the generations. Schools give our youngsters the facts of about what happened a century ago. People engage with the Australian War Memorial to learn more about relatives who served. People do not forget. They will not forget.

It was a terrible war, but there is something very positive about the way in which our nation continues to remember the sacrifice of earlier generations. These commemorations are not about flag-waving or jingoism. They are about people honouring sacrifice of others and thinking hard about the necessity to promote peace.

Gallipoli and World War I had an impact on every community in his nation—from the biggest cities to the smallest country towns. In my own community, the roll of honour at Marrickville includes the names of 26 people who died at Gallipoli. About 6,500 people from the Marrickville area alone served in the war.

I am pleased that this year saw the re-establishment of the Winged Victory statue, a 31-foot tall statue of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. The original statue was unveiled in 1919 in front of 15,000 people, to commemorate the sacrifice of 450 Marrickville residents who died in World War I. It was designed by sculptor Gilbert Doble. But the statue was taken down in 2008 due to concerns about its condition and threats to public safety. A new version, by artists Peter Corlett and Darien Pullen, was unveiled on Sunday, 19 April, 2015, outside Marrickville Town Hall. In the original statue, the goddess’s sword was raised, though her eyes were cast downward in a pose that spoke of a mix of sorrow and pride in victory. In the new version, Nike’s sword is at rest, while the original statue is proudly on display at the Australian War Memorial here in Canberra.

Across my electorate of Grayndler, large crowds turned out for the Marrickville Remembers march, which included 25 schools, seven bands and no less than seven military and emergency services groups. Local councils and, of course, the Marrickville, Canterbury-Hurlstone Park, Petersham and Campsie RSL clubs also observed the centenary.

As part of the Centenary of Anzac year, the Commonwealth offered grants to organisations to preserve the Anzac heritage under the Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program. Recipients in Grayndler included: Kegworth Public School, which received a grant to create a memorial garden there in Leichardt, and Dulwich High School of Visual Arts and Design, which received a grant for production of artworks commemorating Anzac. The Marrickville Council received a grant to help meet the cost of the plinth for the new Winged Victory statue. The Ashfield Council received a grant to restore an honour board at Haberfield. The Leichhardt council received a grant to restore a memorial board at Leichhardt. The Polish Club at Ashfield also received a small grant to fund a World War I exhibition. Finally, the Addison Road Community Centre received a grant of $30,000 to commemorate the role of war horses that served in World War I with the light horse. I was very proud to attend that event paying tribute to the Walers, as the horses were known, who also of course served their nation; unfortunately, they did not get to return back home

The centre at Addison Road is located in former Army barracks where, during World War I, many diggers and their horses spent their time as they prepared for departure to the Middle East. Australians did themselves proud in the way they recognised the Centenary of Anzac. At the end of last year I attended an extraordinary function at Canterbury-Hurlstone Park RSL along with Brendan Nelson, the former minister now in charge of the War Memorial. He gave an extraordinary speech that evening. We did our nation proud in the way we celebrated the Anzacs and also remembered and paid tribute to those whose efforts and sacrifice means that we can enjoy the lifestyle we have in Australia today.

I congratulate all those involved around the nation in planning these commemorations. I congratulate the current government and the former government for the way in which they organised the logistics, which must have been extraordinarily difficult—particularly for the widows and veterans travelling to European and Middle Eastern theatres of war. It was an extraordinary effort. I congratulate the government on that. In particular, I congratulate the Department of Veterans’ Affairs for the way in which they handled the event. I am confident that, when the 200th anniversary of Gallipoli comes around, Australians will live up to the sentiments of the famous ode: ‘We will remember them. Lest we forget.’