REMEMBRANCE DAY: WILLIAM MATTHEW CURREY, VC, COMMEMORATIVE PLAQUE
Mr JOHN AQUILINA
(Riverstone—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.56 p.m.], on behalf of Mr Nathan Rees: I move:
(1) recognises that 11 November 2008 is the ninetieth anniversary of the end of World War I;
(2) acknowledges the bravery of the late William Matthew Currey, former member for Kogarah, whilst serving with the Australian Imperial Force, for his actions at Péronne, France, on 1 September 1918, which led to the awarding of the Victoria Cross; and
(3) recognises this act of bravery by endorsing the Speaker's placement of a commemorative plaque in the Speaker's Square.
I am both honoured and proud to have moved this motion on this solemn but commemorative day, the ninetieth anniversary of the cessation of hostilities at the end of the First World War. Before I say a few words about William Matthew Currey, I will dwell a little on the significance of today being the ninetieth anniversary of the armistice and reflect a little on why in Australia we are proud to celebrate this day. I will refer also to the symbolism of Armistice Day, particularly the wearing of the Flander's poppy, which many members in the Chamber are wearing. After speaking about the Flander's poppy with many of my constituents and other people it appears that there is a degree of confusion as to its significance, particularly as many people recognise rosemary as the flower of remembrance.
On the celebration of Anzac Day we wear rosemary, not the Flander's poppy. So, what is the difference? The origin of rosemary for remembrance goes back many hundreds of years. Students of literature would remember that in Hamlet
Shakespeare refers to rosemary as the flower of remembrance, and so it has been for many years. On the battlefields of France during the reign of King Henry V rosemary was a symbol of remembrance. Why is the Flander's poppy the symbol for Armistice Day? On the battlefields of France the poppy was regarded as a weed, as it grew in the grain fields. The poppy grows particularly well when the ground is disturbed.
Ironically, because of the hostilities taking place at the time and the tremendous impact of the gunnery, the flowers grew abundantly among the crosses and graves of the battlefields of France. People looking around the battlefields of France at the bright red flower were reminded not only of hope but also of resurrection and the future. That is why the poppy has taken on a special significance. It was not really commented on much until Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian medical officer who had been a professor at a Canadian university, made reference to the poppy after conducting the burial service for a very close friend and fellow officer Lieutenant Alexis Helmer of the 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery, on 2 May 1915. He referred to the Flanders poppy as being a symbol of hope amongst so much devastation and death. We owe to him the immortalisation of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance, particularly as it related to World War I and the battlefields of France.
In 1921 the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Imperial League of Australia, the forerunner to the Returned and Services League of Australia [RSL], adopted the red poppy as the official emblem of remembrance for Armistice Day. It started selling the poppy at that time for a shilling, which was a considerable amount of money in 1921. Out of that shilling, five pence went to French children, many thousands of whom had been dislocated by the war or orphaned and whose families had been dispersed far and wide; sixpence went to the league's welfare work; and a penny went to the league's national coffers.
The tradition of selling the poppy for various charitable works, particularly those associated with the families of returned servicemen, dates back to that time. In those days the flower was actually sold before Armistice Day, not on Armistice Day as it is now. It is great to think that the tradition of selling the poppy and raising money has gone on continuously since 1921. I take this opportunity to encourage people to purchase the poppy today and in the coming days. I had the honour last Monday week of launching the Poppy Day appeal on behalf of the Premier. I encourage all members not only to purchase the poppy and donate to the charitable cause it represents but also to wear it with great pride and honour in remembrance of those who have gone before us.
I turn now to the ninetieth anniversary of the armistice and the cessation of hostilities. We recognise that it has been a long time since the end of that war, which, as we have heard in the Chamber today, brought so much devastation to the youth of this nation at a time when Australia was very much a young country. It was also a time when the young people of this country through the shedding of their blood, and their heroism and mateship brought such great pride and honour to Australia and put Australia very much on the world stage.
I refer now to William Matthew Currey. Until now he has not been a very well-known figure. Who was he exactly? He was a unique character in many ways. He was born on 19 September 1895 at Wallsend in New South Wales, the son of William Robert Currey, a labourer and later a miner, and his wife, Mary Ellen nee Lang. He was educated at Dudley and Plattsburg public schools and moved to Leichhardt in Sydney where he found employment as a wire worker. It was hardly an occupation that would have earned much money in those days. We have to remember that this was a particularly young man. After the outbreak of World War I he twice attempted to enlist without his parents' consent. In fact he was barely 19 when he first tried to join the Army. He lied about his age, as so many young men did, to try to enlist and volunteer for the forces, but was discharged when the Army found out his real age.
He was then accepted for the Australian Imperial Force on 9 October 1916, which would have been literally just a few days after he turned 21. He was posted to the 4th Light Trench-Mortar Battery, embarking for France in November. On 1 July 1917 he was transferred to the 53rd Battalion and later that year he fought at Polygon Wood and then returned to the Somme. Private Currey was awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in the Australian attack at Péronne on 1 September 1918—a 22-year-old lad. What he did was an act not only of great heroism and courage but I think most people looking at it today from a reasonable perspective would think it was almost one of reckless enthusiasm.
He single-handedly attacked a German World War 1 77-millimetre gun and killed all its crew. In those days the 77-millimetre field gun had a crew of four men. There is one in North Sydney, although it is not the one that William Matthew Currey captured. It was captured on the battlefields close to where William Matthew Currey fought in August of that year, a few weeks before William Matthew Currey's attack on the field gun. The State War Trophy Committee allocated the gun to North Sydney Council in 1921 and it was unveiled by Major-General Sir Granville Ryrie. It had been captured by the 4th Battalion AIF east of Proyart, France, on 23 August 1918. We need to remember that William Currey's exploit was on 1 September 1918, not a great time later.
By capturing the field gun, which had been firing at very close range, after rushing it under heavy machine gun fire and killing the crew, Currey enabled his battalion to proceed. He then found that his battalion came under heavy fire again later that same day. He worked around the flank of the position and opened fire with a Lewis gun, which was a forerunner to the machine-gun in those days, before rushing the post, inflicting many casualties and dispersing the survivors. His heroic action enabled the battalion's attack to proceed.
Not content to leave it at that, this somewhat reckless young man who had already killed a large number of enemy soldiers and wounded a number of others by attacking a field gun single-handedly and saving his entire battalion from heavy fire, found that at three o'clock the next morning part of his company came under heavy attack and needed to be warned about the way in which they could retreat from their position. He volunteered to warn the company, which had become isolated. Single-handedly he went out again into no-man's-land shouting his head off and drawing a large amount of fire. He did this not once, not twice but three times. On the third occasion he was wounded, his respirator was punctured and he was gassed.
Currey managed to get away and his company was safely retired. Despite his gas wound, William Currey saw out the war with the 53rd Battalion, arriving back in Australia in March 1919. In September he joined the New South Wales railways as a storeman and the next year, on 10 April, he married Emma Davies at St Saviour's Anglican Church, Punchbowl. While employed with the railways he became active in the Australian Labor Party and on 16 May 1941 he resigned his post to stand as a Labor candidate for Kogarah in the Legislative Assembly. He won the seat, thereby becoming the first Victoria Cross winner—I think at this stage the only Victoria Cross winner—to enter the New South Wales Parliament.
He was re-elected twice—in 1944 and in 1947—and was concerned about the interests of ex-servicemen. From 1930 to 1932 he served with the 45th Battalion in the Citizens Forces rising to warrant officer rank, and from 1940 to 1941 he served with the Australian Instructional Corps. It was a great tragedy when Currey suddenly collapsed in this Chamber on 27 April 1948, significantly, two days after Anzac Day, having participated at great length in the Anzac services that year, as he did every year. Currey, who was survived by his wife and two daughters, was cremated after a Presbyterian service that was attended by four Victoria Cross winners. His portrait by John Longstaff is in the Australian War Memorial collection.
Why are we going through this today and what is the story about the plaque? The good people in the Kogarah electorate raised some funds to erect a plaque in memory of William Currey, and in 1956 that plaque was erected in the Speakers Square. Members would be aware that in the early 1970s substantial renovations were undertaken in this Chamber and in the older section of Parliament House. The plaque was removed and placed in a cardboard box, presumably for safekeeping but, as so often happens when renovations take place—I am sure that from time to time members have all been subjected to renovations at their places—the box ended up in the basement and remained there. As Speaker I always took an interest in the history of these parliamentary precincts.
Three years ago, after talking to our archivist, I went down to the basement to look at some of the stuff that had been stored in shoeboxes and in other things, and I found a mass of documents, photographs, and heaven knows what else. When I came across this plaque I wanted to know the story about the person to whom it belonged. At that stage the Parliamentary Library did a fair amount of work researching material relating to William Matthew Currey and unfolded this somewhat tragic but nonetheless heroic story of a 22-year-old man whose actions defied belief and who was awarded the Victoria Cross. William Currey was not a decorated officer and he never had rank at that stage. He was just a plain private who lied about his age, as so many people did, to get into the Army before the age of 21.
William Currey was discharged when the Army found out that he was too young to enrol, but he finally succeeded in his dream of joining the Army literally a few days after his twenty-first birthday. Within a short period he was sent to the battlefields of France and there he engaged in his heroic exploits and was wounded. He came back to Australia, joined a political party and served as the member for Kogarah, having been elected on three successive occasions. His story is truly remarkable and is a great Australian story in every sense of the word. William Currey was a young man of great heroism who did not rest on his laurels. Having already served his country and the democratic cause with outstanding vigour, he came back to serve his country in another way—as an elected representative in this Chamber.
On behalf of the Premier and the Government I am proud and honoured to speak in debate on a motion that recognises the ninetieth anniversary of the end of World War I and the significance of the symbolism that we all wear, the poppy of Flanders Field. This motion recognises the outstanding heroism of William Matthew Currey, a former member for Kogarah, and his great contribution to Australia in so many ways, and it endorses the action of the Speaker in placing William Currey's commemorative plaque back in the Speakers Square where it was located for 20 years before being pulled down prior to renovations and subsequently being lost in the bowels and entrails of the parliamentary precincts. That plaque, which is no longer lost, has been restored to its former glory in recognition of a man of great heroism—a great Australian.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL
(Ku-ring-gai—Leader of the Opposition) [5.15 p.m.]: Just a few months before the acts of heroism that earned Bill Currey his Victoria Cross, General John Monash was appointed the commander of the Australian Army Corps. Monash is one of my heroes. For me his life characterises the indomitable Australian spirit—our ability to respond to whatever challenge comes our way whether the cause is war, weather, or want. Enjoying success in a career before the war, Monash saw the clouds gathering across Europe and set about preparing himself for the coming conflict. He landed at Gallipoli on 26 April and left at its end, eight months later, with a reputation as a leader upon whom men could rely, a commander who meticulously planned for battle, and someone who understood the value of life at a time when so much was wantonly wasted.
By war's end Monash had earned many honours. Knighted on the field of battle, regarded by a future prime minister of Britain as the greatest soldier of World War I, distinction came Monash's way despite what one historian described as his handicaps—his Jewish faith, Prussian heritage, colonial birth and a militia, not regular Army, background. Monash's wartime success reflects another Australian characteristic: that people's reputations and achievements are determined by their own efforts. They are not based upon who their parents are, the size of their bank balance, or a string of qualifications. On this day—the ninetieth anniversary of the end of World War I—I reflect on another aspect of Monash, one that members of Parliament recognise in so many of the veterans that we have the honour and privilege of meeting as we go about our duties. Despite all the success and distinction it brought him, Monash was no reveller in war. He was never one to take pride in the death and destruction that armed conflict created. In 1917 he wrote in a letter to his wife:
I hate the business of war—the horror of it, the waste, the destruction, the inefficiency. My only consolation is the sense of doing my duty to my country, which has placed a grave responsibility upon me. I owe something to the men whose lives and honour are in my hands to do as I will. But once my duty is done and honourably discharged, I shall with a sigh of relief turn my back once and for all on the possibility of ever again having to go through such an awful time.
Those 416,000 Australian men and those 2,500 Australian women who enlisted in World War I did so out of a keen sense of duty to this nation. More than 63,000—one in five of all those who served overseas—paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that we, their grandchildren and great grandchildren might live lives as free and as full of opportunity as they had enjoyed at the outbreak of war. All those who returned, like Monash, were dedicated to what ultimately would prove to be a forlorn hope—that no-one should again be required to endure the hardships, experience the terrors and witness the horrors of war. As Leader of the Opposition and as Leader of the Liberal Party I am again pleased to publicly acknowledge the sacrifice of that generation of men and women who went to war in defence of the freedoms that we now enjoy and that all too often we take for granted.
Despite their experiences and regardless of the injuries they suffered, returned veterans like Bill Currey sought to make this State and nation a better place. They did so despite carrying the scars of that conflict: scars that altered the course of their lives, sometimes changed their personalities and, all too often, shortened their life spans. Eight years after the end of World War I almost 23,000 veterans were in hospitals around this nation. One of them, Private Bill Shirley, had sailed to war in January 1916. Like many, he suffered from ailments resulting from the inhumane use of gas during the fierce battles on the Western Front, plus the added complications of tuberculosis.
Between 1926 and 1928 Bill Shirley was cared for at Lady Davidson Convalescent Hospital located at North Turramurra, within what is now my electorate of Ku-ring-gai. For 18 months and despite ill health, Shirley laboured to carve out of the sandstone a one-eighth size model of the Great Sphinx of Giza. He did so as a personal memorial to his fallen comrades. Bill Shirley died not long after completing this unique monument. The sphinx sits there today—just near the gates of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park—and has been used by local school students on Remembrance and Anzac days to honour the sacrifices of Bill Shirley, Bill Currey and all the other veterans of that terrible conflict.
William "Bill" Matthew Currey is rightly honoured as the only Victoria Cross winner to ever sit as a member of this Parliament. Not once, not twice, but three times on 1 September 1918 Currey displayed what one of his commanding officers described as "conspicuous gallantry and daring". First, under machine-gun fire, Currey captured a 77-millimetre German field gun that had been wreaking death and injury upon his company. He followed up by single-handedly rushing an enemy strong point comprising 30 men and two machine-guns, killing four, wounding two and causing the others to flee. Later that same night Currey volunteered to get a message to an isolated company. His feat is best described in the words of his commanding officer, Captain W. E. Smith:
Private Currey volunteered to carry a message over the open ground which was swept continuously by intense Machine Gun Fire. He crossed the ground, but, being unable to locate the company returned for further directions and immediately went out again, but was still unable to locate the Company. During this trip he was very badly gassed. Despite this he made a third attempt and this time was successful. He brought back valuable information which was urgently needed and shortly afterwards the Company Withdrew. His magnificent courage and devotion to duty undoubtedly saved the lives of many of his comrades.
For his courage, Currey was awarded the empire's highest honour—the Victoria Cross. Instituted in 1856—the same year Britain granted New South Wales responsible government—Victoria crosses are to this day made from the metal of Russian guns captured at Sebastopol during the Crimean War. Just 67 Victoria crosses were awarded to Australians during World War I. The day of Bill Currey's exploits, 1 September 1918, was a momentous day in the annals of Australia's military history. On the same day Bill Currey earned his Victoria Cross, five other Australians also gained the nation's highest honour: Albert Lowerson, Robert Mactier, and Edgar Towner, along with two New South Welshmen, Alexander Buckley of Warren and Arthur Hall of Granville. Alex Buckley and Bob Mactier died carrying out their acts of bravery. It should be noted that the Victoria Cross is the only military bravery honour that can be awarded posthumously.
Many other Australian soldiers perished during World War I without any recognition, despite having carried out extraordinary deeds of self-sacrifice in defence of their mates, this nation and their commitment to freedom. Remembrance Day allows us to recall and honour the deeds of all those men and women who gave their lives in the desire that we could continue to live freely and safely in this country. This motion also permits us to recognise others who served in this place, and in uniform, throughout our history—people ranging from Major D'Arcy Wentworth, who was elected to the blended Legislative Council in 1843, through to Major Charlie Lynn in the current Parliament. Their service across 54 parliaments can be as obvious as the plaque displayed here on the Chamber wall in honour of Lieutenant Colonel George Braund, the Liberal member for Armidale, who died at The Nek and Sergeant Ted Larkin, the Labor member for Willoughby, who died at Lone Pine during the Gallipoli campaign, or the service of these former members can be less obvious.
In reading Bill Currey's condolence motion, I was struck by the contribution of the then Leader of the Opposition, another Liberal, Vernon Treatt, who spoke warmly of the comradeship that Currey brought with him to Parliament. But he also spoke with first-hand knowledge of a gunner and of the impact of the actions of Bill Currey's 53rd Battalion on troops at the time. Treatt told this place:
Many Australian troops feared that the Germans would make a stand at Peronne and prevent the continuance of the advance! When we learned that the Somme had been crossed and Peronne captured there can be no doubt of the stimulating and inspiring effect upon the Australian troops.
As we pause to honour Bill Currey today and agree to erect the memorial in his honour, I urge you, Mr Speaker, to compile a record of the names of all those who have served the colony, State or nation, before or during their service in this place—and the other place—so that their memories can help remind us of the truly important and honourable task of politics. In February 1929 General Sir John Monash officiated at the opening of the Cenotaph in Martin Place, where this morning yet another memorial service took place to commemorate the actions of those who fought and those who gave their lives in World War I. Two years earlier on Anzac Day Monash declared:
On us who have survived the stress of war and who have been safely returned to our homeland is laid the duty of helping to restore to Australia the mighty loss of that legion of men by devoting our lives and energies to that class of nation building in which they would have shared had they been spared.
Monash and the other 400,000 are today reunited, watching us as we seek to carry on that task of nation building for which too many gave their lives. They responded without hesitation and they never gave up regardless of risk: they knew their mates would never let them down. We owe it to their memory—their sacrifices—to keep the flames of freedom and opportunity alive in this State and nation. We owe it to ourselves to salute their courage, to admire their determination and to honour their mateship. Lest we forget.
Mr ALAN ASHTON
(East Hills) [5.26 p.m.]: The Leader of the Opposition referred in his remarks to Sir John Monash. He may want to hear my comments. He said that a future historian had said that John Monash was of Jewish stock and civilian, and was not appropriate to serve as a general in charge of the Australian forces towards the end of the war in 1918.
Mr Barry O'Farrell:
You were wrong.
Mr ALAN ASHTON:
No I was not. If he waits he will hear the answer.
Mr Barry O'Farrell:
You were wrong, I said.
Mr ALAN ASHTON:
I indicated that that journalist was C. E. W. Bean, who was Australia's official war correspondent. The House has now heard four times the Leader of the Opposition say I am wrong. I am correct. The beauty of this is that because of the sacrifice of those soldiers we can have this debate in this place. If one refers only to last weekend's newspapers, there was a very detailed account of what Sir Charles Bean thought of Sir John Monash. Charles Bean said that Monash was Jewish and had a sense of superiority that goes with his race, and that he would not recommend him to be in charge of the Australian soldiers.
Charles Bean in fact recommended that Brudenell White should be in charge of the Australian military forces in 1918. Charles Bean clearly was wrong in that assessment and later admitted, 30 years after the death of Sir John Monash, who died in the early 1930s, that he was wrong and should have recommended that Sir John Monash be in charge of the Australian forces. Members do not have to take my word or that of the Leader of the Opposition: that is the beauty of history. However, I will add that David Lloyd George, who became Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1916, was known as an easterner. He believed that the attack through Gallipoli to defeat the Russians, get Bulgaria out of the war and put pressure on the Germans was the way to win the war. That was tried in 1915, as we know in this country, because we call that series of battles in the Dardanelles the Gallipoli campaign.
That 1915 Gallipoli campaign is what we commemorate on 25 April each year. Prior to that, attempts had been made to win the war through the Western Front. As we all know, the Western Front was prosecuted by King George V and certain generals, particularly Douglas Haig, an old soldier of Scottish Methodist background who believed that the war could be won on the Western Front with cavalry. How he could continue to think the war could be won with cavalry after the British Army had lost 400,000 horses dead, killed or drowned in the mud is impossible to imagine. But that was the mindset of the generals who went off to fight World War I.
An interesting fact is that David Lloyd George absolutely hated Douglas Haig, and the feeling was mutual. However, Haig had the most important supporter anyone could have needed—the King of England, who was also the King of the Empire of which Australia was a part. It is very interesting that two people who had completely different views and hated each other both had a great deal of faith in Sir John Monash, who led Australian soldiers who helped halt the German advance at Villers-Bretonneux and later took Peronne. Recently we celebrated the victory that on 8 August 1918 turned back the Germans from Villers-Bretonneux. Ludendorff and Hindenburg referred to it as the absolute turning point of World War I because after that the German forces continually moved back.
I mention that simply because history is not quite as clear-cut as people on all sides of the discussion would make out. We could argue that General Haig did not know much different from what he advocated because he was a cavalryman who had studied the battles of the Boer War and, as the Leader of the Opposition said, the battle of Sebastopol and other battles during the Crimean War. As well, all the leaders of that era learned the great poetry of that time, such as The Charge of the Light Brigade
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred
Haig hated Lloyd George and Lloyd George hated Haig, but they came to the view that Monash was the best man for the job. However, Charles Bean was the man who asserted that General Monash, of Jewish background and typical of his race, was pushy and should not be appointed. However, we should remember that it was he who formulated the idea, and almost brought it to the attention of the Americans and the British, that it was useless attacking enemy trenches without moving in concert with artillery and moving up tanks to hold whatever ground had been gained.
In the first couple of years of the war, each army would shell the enemy's trenches and charge them, but the shelling would not be done at the same time as the charge. Tanks were scarcely available and frequently became bogged or broke down. Under those circumstances, the enemy simply counter-attacked. Soldiers went over the top of their trenches to fight but many of the battles ended in stalemate. Australian troops referred to "hopping the bags" as they ran forward to fight.
It is very significant during this commemorative discussion to talk about Private William Currey winning a Victoria Cross and being elected as a member of Parliament. One would not expect someone who won a Victoria Cross to do both. The very nature of the award connotes a fifty-fifty chance of recipients being awarded the Victoria cross posthumously, and it was often awarded posthumously. Australians won more Victoria Crosses than most, taking into account our population during World War I. Australians were used as shock troops because all Australian service personnel had volunteered. That should be remembered as we celebrate Private Currey's career, and commemorate his service as well as the service of all soldiers who fought in wars Australia has been involved in. Remembrance Day honours all soldiers.
Along with many other members of the Parliament, I attended this morning's ceremony in Martin Place. We must recognise that since World War I Australians have fought in many wars. While different political views are held about our participation in those wars, what unites all Australians is the sacrifice made by service men and women, not only at the cost of their own lives on battlefields but also, if they survive, at the cost of their future and that of their families. I must point out that when World War I broke out, on all sides there was enthusiasm. The German soldiers were quite happy because they were heading off to Paris and would be there at Christmas, by which time they thought the war would be over. The soldiers in London were happy because they were heading over to Paris on the way to Berlin, and they also thought that the war would be over by Christmas.
The men and women who volunteered—including women who served in the nursing units and in the Voluntary Aid Detachment [VAD] forces—had a bit of fun on their way to the war. Certainly when troop ships stopped at various places on their way to Europe, there were natives who could be tricked and who could provide some fascination for our soldiers who were on their way to their great adventure. As we all know, before Australian troops arrived in Gallipoli, they went through Cairo. Even today some Egyptians are still getting over what happened!
I am reminded of a poem by Rupert Brooke, Peace
, which typifies youthful enthusiasm in, "Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour ". Brooke described his enthusiasm for fighting the war and not wanting to miss a great opportunity. He attacked the cowards and "sick hearts" who would not join up and play the game by fighting in Europe and later on at Gallipoli. The interesting fact about Rupert Brooke, aside from the fact that he was a great poet and great fighter who fought on the Western Front, is that he died as a result of a mosquito bite. That is rather typical of the tragedy that befell so many of the soldiers who fought in that war. The mosquito bite gave him blood poisoning and he died on one of the Greek islands before he even set foot on Gallipoli.
I am reminded of yet another poem, this time one by Wilfred Owen who wrote what I regard as the greatest poem of World War I, Dulce Et Decorum Est
. It is a long, tragic and wonderful poem, but for all the wrong reasons. It tells the story of a gas attack and of a soldier who had been gassed because he was not able to put on his mask in time. As they lifted him in the back of the cart, his head was hanging out the back, and out of his head oozed green poison, or vile "cud", as it is referred to in the poem. Owen wrote that if we could see the gassed man's face, "like a devil sick of sin", as they dragged him back towards the line, we would not say to young people who are desperate for ardent glory, "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori", which translates to "It is soft and beautiful to die for one's country." It is not. It is better to live for your country than to die for it.
But because Australians have made the ultimate sacrifice and have died for their country, it is only proper that we should remember them. Many members have spoken on earlier occasions about the sacrifice made by previous generations of Australians. It is true that no matter what divides Australians, what unites us is that many of us, like me, have relatives or friends who fought in World War I or World War II, as my father did, or, like me, have mates who fought in the Vietnam War. All of our electorates would have constituents who have relatives or friends who are deployed in Timor, Afghanistan, Iraq or the Solomon Islands. Australia has always been proud to do its bit, and more. The Leader of the Opposition rightly referred to the Australians who volunteered for World War I. Australia is the only nation whose service men and women were all volunteers during that war. We did not introduce conscription. Twice there was an attempt to introduce conscription in Australia during World War I, and on both occasions it was rejected.
Conscription was rejected not just by people in Australia, women particularly, but also by the soldiers at the front. Billy Hughes counted on soldiers at the front voting to bring other men over to the war, but they did not. They voted on the basis that they had volunteered to come to the war and while many may have wanted people to volunteer and provide assistance—perhaps in response to a great deal of propaganda that was circulating with that desired effect—they did not vote in sufficient numbers to force people through conscription to fight in the war. That gives Australia a unique position because Australians who fought in World War I were all volunteers. In my electorate, particularly in the suburb of Milperra, there are a number of streets that commemorate battles of World War I. As the Leader of the Opposition was speaking, I wrote a list of some of the ones I know, such as Amiens Street, which commemorates famous battles, and Somme Street, which commemorates the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916. That was the day when more British soldiers died than previously in the history of Great Britain as a nation. Sixty thousand soldiers were either killed or wounded on that one day.
Some of the books and poems that have been written about the Battle of the Somme reveal that all the British and Allied soldiers thought there would not be a German to attack because they all would have been killed by artillery during a barrage that continued for approximately 15 days and could be heard in London. Millions of shells were fired at the Germans, and they were convinced that the barbed wire would be cut. I do not know if anyone knows this, but when shells thrown amongst a lot of barbed wire explode all it does is move the barbed wire from one place to another; it does not cut the barbed wire enough to enable people to get through.
When the troops attacked on the first day of the Somme they were slaughtered by the German machine guns. The Somme is a street in my electorate, as is Dernancourt. Birdwood is named after a general, and Haig is named after the main general of World War I. Bullecourt was one of Australia's great battles in World War I, Pozieres was one of the most famous battle sites. There is also a Fleurbaix Street and a Monash Street in my electorate. I turn now to Fromelles. The Fromelles battle is being studied at length now. Patrick Lindsay wrote a book in which he gave credit to Lambos Englezos, a Greek-born schoolteacher from Melbourne, who researched what happened and found the 400 or 500 buried bodies in the Fromelles area. The Australian solders referred to Fromelles as a stunt. Today we use the word "stunt" in political terms—for example, we say, "The Leader of the Opposition is pulling a stunt"—but its original connotation goes back to World War I.
Basically, a stunt meant that a battle did not need to be fought. But to get the Australians ready for action and to see what they could do, they were organised to attack Fromelles. Some 5,000 or 6,000 Australians were killed or injured in one night. That is almost equivalent to the number who died in Gallipoli during a campaign that continued for many months. Fromelles was a disaster. When the bodies were buried the Germans did their best to reclaim badges and to recognise the soldiers in some way. But it is only in the past year that we have found where the bodies have been buried, and now there is a debate about whether they should be brought home or left there to be buried properly and given proper credit.
World War I was supposed to be the war to end all wars. I refer to the plaque on the wall opposite; members on this side of the House have been looking at the plaque for many, many years. The plaque does not say "World War I"—it refers to George Frederick Braund and Edward Larkin who were, interestingly, a Labor member and a Liberal member—it says "the Great War". That plaque went up before 1939. A reasonably good historian can work that out; if the plaque had been put up after World War II it would have said "World War I". It says "the Great War" because when it was placed on the wall there had not been a Second World War. The soldiers who fought in that war all argued that God was on their side. That was the irony of it all—the British, the French, the Germans, and all the others fighting, were Christians, with the exception of the Turks. That is just one of the tragedies.
Today I pay homage to those two gentlemen, as well as to Private Currey. Obviously I recognise his acts of bravery and endorse the Speaker's placement of the special plaque. It is something we should do. It does not mean that we are glorifying war. When I was attending school—the Minister for Ageing, Minister for Disability Services, and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs might sympathise with this in part—the Vietnam War was unpopular, and was seen to be a very political war. However, I never saw World War II, World War I or any other wars in the same context. I never bore any ill will towards the soldiers who fought in Vietnam. Many years later Paul Keating instigated a proper return for the Vietnam veterans. He was not being political; it was simply an act of happenstance.
Mr Thomas George:
Is he going to Gallipoli?
Mr ALAN ASHTON:
No, he said he is not. It is interesting that the member for Lismore has asked that question. I do not want to get into a debate about Paul Keating but if one carefully reads what he said I do not think he was belittling Gallipoli but saying that we should also remember the 46,000 Australians who died on the Western Front. Gallipoli was our first baptism of fire but after Gallipoli, which was a military disaster, our soldiers went to the Western Front, where virtually universally wherever they went it was a victory celebration. Those soldiers fought in mud up to their necks and in blood. They fought literally next to their friends who had been literally blown to smithereens.
The best thing that could happen to a soldier in World War I was to get what was called a Blighty. If a soldier's hand was blown off he was sent back to England. For a little while those soldiers were heroes because people would say, "Look at that bloke, he lost an arm" or an eye, an ear or a leg. "Good on you mate". By about 1920 or 1921 people were saying, "Look at that cripple, what is he doing there?" The war to end all wars did not last long in people's minds and memories; unfortunately people forgot it fairly quickly. Unfortunately for us, one country that did not forget was Germany. Germany lost the war but not one Allied soldier ended up on German soil. As not one Allied soldier ever set foot on German soil in battle it was easy for Hindenburg, Ludendorff and Adolf Hitler in particular to say that the German army had been betrayed in the field and that Germany had been betrayed by spies, spivs, Jews, slackers, communists, socialists and others. Partly as a result of the Versailles Treaty we ended up with the rise of Hitler.
I am glad to have had this opportunity to place those thoughts on the record today as we celebrate the life of William Matthew Currey and commemorate his bravery. Many of us have attended commemoration ceremonies in our local schools and RSL clubs in the past few days. I am a proud patron of the Padstow RSL club. We get all sorts of different politics in RSL clubs but one thing we should be united about—even if I slightly disagree with the Leader of the Opposition, who has a different opinion about Sir John Monash—is that the young people who volunteered did not know what they were getting themselves into. They came back mentally scarred and were not treated as well by all governments as they should have been. But we will never forget them. We have not forgotten them.
Mr ANDREW STONER
(Oxley—Leader of The Nationals) [5.54 p.m.]: On behalf of The Nationals I join with the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition in remembering and honouring those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defending our freedom. Between nine million and 13 million soldiers were killed during World War 1—a figure that today seems unfathomable. Of those, some 63,000 were Australians. A further 156,000 Australians were wounded in action, gassed or taken prisoner. To these men, we owe our deepest gratitude. They came from throughout Australia, many just boys. From a population of just five million, nearly 417,000 Australians enlisted to fight for their country. Notably, a significant number of imperial force recruits came from country areas—a reflection of the decentralised population in Australia at the time.
Many of these men were recruited through the so-called snowball marches. During these marches a group of men would set out from a regional centre and head for Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne on foot, picking up more men as they marched. The first of these marches became known as the Cooee March and started with 26 men in Gilgandra in 1915. At each town en route to Sydney the marchers would shout "Cooee" to attract recruits and hold meetings. By the time they reached Sydney one month later the number had reached 263, and the original men had marched 320 miles. Along the way townsfolk in places like Orange and Dubbo would provide food and shelter for the men—a sign of the spirit that still exists in country towns today.
Marches also departed from Nowra, Wagga Wagga, Narrabri, Delegate, Tooraweenah, Grafton, Daroobalgie and Albury, where incidentally the marchers travelled by train. In total, about 1,500 men from country New South Wales marched, and they are credited with encouraging up to two or three times that number of men to enlist. Sadly, many of these men perished. One would be hard-pressed to find a country town that does not have a cenotaph detailing scores of names of the young local people killed in the Great War and subsequently in the Second World War.
It is a constant reminder of the sacrifices made for our country by everyday people. One such man was William Matthew Currey, who would later become a member of this place, and whom we honour today with the rededication of a plaque in the Speaker's Square. Born in Wallsend in 1895, Currey twice attempted to enlist with a false age without his parents consent but was discovered and discharged. He was persistent though and in 1916 was accepted into the Australian Imperial Force and later transferred to the 53rd Battalion. In 1918 Private Currey was awarded the Victoria Cross [VC] for his part in the Australian attack at Peronne, where his bravery and selflessness saved countless Allied lives but saw him gassed. He returned to Australia in 1919, married and later became involved in politics.
In 1941 Bill Currey was elected as the member for Kogarah, the first VC winner to enter this Parliament. He was re-elected twice before sadly passing away in 1948. During his time in this place, Bill Currey had particular concern for the interests of ex-servicemen and women, understanding too well the impact on them and their families of living with the legacy of war. His story has particular resonance with me personally as both a member of this place and as the grandson of a man whose story is remarkably similar to his. My maternal grandfather, Arthur Sylvester Brown, served during the Great War in the 5th Light Horse Regiment. I have subsequently found out that like Bill Currey he lied about his age to enlist from his hometown of Grafton, making his way from Brisbane on the vessel Kyarra
to Egypt. Although the official records show his age as 19, I know he was only 17 when he enlisted in October 1915. In fact, he turned 18 during his voyage at sea.
From Egypt he was sent to Turkey as part of the Australian New Zealand Army Corps or the ANZACS. He then went to France where he fought in the most horrific theatre, that is, the Western Front in Europe. There my grandfather fought in the Third Battle of Ypres, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele, the scene of intense and sustained battles with heavy artillery, machine guns and hand-to-hand combat between the German and Allied forces. He told my mother of a Christmas Eve when they downed weapons and went over and shared Christmas celebrations with the Germans, whom he described as "boys"—bear in mind he was all of about 19 at that time. It was there, at Ypres, late in the war that my grandfather, again like Bill Currey, was gassed by German forces, severely damaging his lungs. One of his lungs collapsed and he spent the rest of his life with only one lung.
My grandfather was repatriated to hospital first in France and then on to London. Thankfully he survived, otherwise I would not be here. On the journey home to Australia he learned of the Armistice, which occurred on this day 90 years ago. He re-settled in Grafton where he resumed his employment as a typesetter with the local paper, the Daily Examiner
. I recall my grandfather fondly. Like many, he did not talk about the war but I know that he suffered physically and mentally, like many other survivors of the war that is widely acknowledged as the most horrific and dreadful conflict of all time. My grandfather lived until what was, for servicemen who returned from the worst of the Great War, the ripe old age of 71, despite the fact that he continued to smoke roll-your-owns with just one lung right to the end.
Today holds special significance for my family and I, and so many other Australians, as we remember and honour those who sacrificed so much for our great country. As Leader of The Nationals I also make mention of former Country Party members of this place who risked their lives in the Great War on the battlefields of Europe. They include: Lieutenant Colonel the Hon. Sir Michael Bruxner, former Country Party Leader, Deputy Premier, Acting Premier, and member for Tenterfield, who was made a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order [DSO] for his service with the 6th Light Horse in Egypt in the First World War; John Markham Carter, former member of the Legislative Council, who was awarded the Military Cross [MC] for his service with the Light Horse; and Harold Fletcher White, former member of the Legislative Council, who was awarded Companion of the Distinguished Service Order [DSO] and Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George [CMG] for his service in the 33rd Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, in France and Flanders.
I also mention the former member for Oxley, George Dean Mitchell, whose meticulous diaries are a significant feature of the Australian War Museum and formed the basis of his book Backs to the Wall
, which is a compelling read. I give credit to the member for Macquarie Fields for giving me the book, which I highly recommend as the most complete record by a soldier in the Great War who experienced virtually every battle from Gallipoli to the Western Front. He actively sought a Blighty to get out of there. He would even walk in the face of German machine guns because he believed he was invincible, until he ended up in this place as the member for Oxley, when fate caught up with him.
Today, 90 years after the merciful end of the Great War, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month we stood to remember those who have fallen for our great country. On behalf of The Nationals I join with the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition in remembering and honouring those servicemen and women who fought for our freedom in the Great War and subsequent conflicts. I know all members in this place pay particular tribute to William Matthew Currey, VC, and celebrate the re-dedication of the plaque in his memory just outside this Chamber in its rightful place in the Speaker's Square.
Dr ANDREW McDONALD
(Macquarie Fields—Parliamentary Secretary) [5.56 p.m.]:
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
Wilfred Owen wrote those famous words in his poem the Anthem for Doomed Youth
. The bravery he then showed to enter the line again can only be guessed at. It puts to shame anything any of us in this place will ever have to face. On 4 November he was shot and killed near the village of Ors while crossing the Sambre River. The news of his death reached his parents home as the Armistice bells were ringing on 11 November 1918, 90 years ago today. By then, most of the Australians were out of the line; however, like Wilfred Owen, they were in preparation for entering the line again. They were not to know that the war was about to end. For those who were there the firing of machine guns went on right until 11.00 a.m. when the guns suddenly stopped. Some Australian machine gunners were killed in the few days prior to the Armistice while fighting with British troops.
The Great War now resonates with our generation more than ever. Only one of those who were killed overseas has ever returned to Australia, that is, the Unknown Soldier buried in Canberra. The rest lie overseas. Their graves are all well tended. Those soldiers whose identities are known have personalised inscriptions of only a few words from their family—their graveyards scattered all over France and the rest of the world are a place of pilgrimage for all in this place. Australia lost 63,000 men, all volunteers, in the Great War. Like the rest of the world, we lost our innocence. The words of Menzies at the start of World War II that Australia was regrettably at war are testament to that.
For this extraordinarily high price we found our defining characteristics: mateship and irreverent equality. Those characteristics last in all of us to this day. Today we pause to remember those men, their courage and sacrifice, and we honour their memory in this place. We pause to respect the freedom that they fought for. William Matthew Currey inspires us with his bravery and few of us know if we ever could do the same. However, his honourable behaviour as a member of Parliament is something we all can aspire to and in doing so respect not only his memory but the memory of all who died. Lest we forget.
Mr JOHN WILLIAMS
(Murray-Darling) [6.00 p.m.]: An opportunity to speak of a fascination with World War I arrived today, which coincides with Armistice Day. One of my grandfathers served in the First World War and a great-grandfather suffered the same experiences as the grandfather of the Leader of The Nationals—he was gassed and had a lung removed. On his return from the war he was told that if he did not smoke or drink he would probably have a pretty fair life. But he did both, and lived to 96—so he did pretty well! I heard a lot of stories from my great-grandfather and my grandfather, who enlisted in the Victorian battalions. In my young life I had a fascination about World War I and the situation of the soldiers. Three brothers of my grandfather had enlisted. My grandfather decided that it would probably be a poor year on the property, so he went to a recruiting station in Melbourne.
He was a little under age. The recruiter said, "Walk around the block and when you get back you will be 19", which he did. There were many great stories to be told, but the one I recall most was about the greatest leader that Australia had, Pompey Elliot. In the hearts of the Victorians, Pompey was the man who put the Victorian battalions together and led them to Gallipoli. Pompey began life in a humble situation, on a farm in Charlton, Victoria, where he did it pretty tough. His father was a prospector and his mother was quite young when she married. As a young married lady she looked after the children and the farm and Pompey's father went to Western Australia and struck gold. That made him rich, so they moved to Ballarat. Subsequently Pompey Elliot received the education he deserved, and was an outstanding student and athlete. He achieved a law degree and later went to the Boer War. Although he then experienced war for the first time, he distinguished himself and went on to lead the Victorians to Gallipoli.
On the day he arrived in Gallipoli he was shot in the ankle. Although he tried to keep on keeping on, he was repatriated to Egypt. On recovering, which took some time, he rejoined his men. His men were awarded the greatest number of Victoria Crosses in a single battle for their actions in the battle of Lone Pine. Pompey later served in Europe in the tragic battle of Fromelles. He was always engaging with the British leaders, attacking them about their warfare methods, giving them his views. As he spent most of his time confronting the British leaders, he was overlooked in many promotions. Pompey had one belief: he said, "I will never put my men into a situation that I won't go into myself." He demonstrated that belief by being at the front with his troops. On many occasions he was seen on the front lines preparing his troops for attack. He was definitely a leader.
In 2002 Ross McMullin published a great book, Pompey Elliot
, which I recommend to all members of Parliament. When I saw that book it rang a bell; it reminded me of that great leader, so I bought it. Ultimately Pompey Elliot was responsible for the success of the battle at Villers-Bretonneux. Despite what was written about in the history books, there is no doubt that Pompey was the man who ensured that that battle was a victory for the Allies. I tagged the page of the book that referred to Pompey speaking to his men at the end of the war when the battalions were disbanded. He said:
It has been the fashion in Australia to decry our own, but the men of the AIF will alter this when they return. You men have equalled the English Guards with their strict discipline; you have fought against the pick of the German Army, the Prussian Guard and the Wurtembergers; you have competed on the rifle range with the French Chasseurs Alpins—all with the same result. Think of these things when you go home. Have pride in yourself and in your country to determine, relying on yourself, to make your country the best to live in and die for. When we came to the Somme in March last year it seemed that there was nothing left for us to do but just to die in our tracks in trying to stop the rush. But when we met the Germans in a really determined manner they did not have a chance with us at all. I thank you for your spontaneous token of respect. I am proud to think that over three years I have served with you, and have at times had to punish you, and yet I hold your respect. It is a great thing, and I thank you for this demonstration of your loyalty and your devotion.
I believe they are the words of a great man. He later served as a Senator in the Federal Parliament. He spent the remainder of his life supporting returned soldiers in their endeavours to get a fair go and repatriation after the war.
Mr PAUL GIBSON
(Blacktown) [6.06 p.m.]: Remembrance Day is an important day that allows us to reflect on people who paid the ultimate price. They allowed us to live today in the finest country in the world. Without their efforts I am certain that that would not be the case. Remembrance Day allows us to honour the brave and the fallen, but it also gives us the opportunity to reflect on the legacies. Australia was the youngest nation to participate in World War I, and the cost was huge. The record of the Australian war dead states that 606 died in the Boer War, 6 in the Boxer Rebellion, 61,919 in World War I, 39,366 in World War II, 339 in the Korean war, 36 in the Malayan emergency, 15 in the Indonesian confrontation and 520 in the Vietnam War. Recently in Iraq there were losses, including a Special Air Service Regiment commando who was killed in a vehicle accident in Kuwait, and a soldier, Jacob Kovco, assigned to the Baghdad security detachment who died from the accidental discharge of his pistol.
They paid the supreme price so we can live the life we live. Today much has been said in the House about William Matthew Currey, VC, former member for Kogarah. It is wonderful that a commemorative plaque is to be erected in the Speaker's Square. His efforts and bravery have been well documented. He rushed the machine gun nests, secured the position and kept attacking, day after day, against the odds, time and time again. He showed bravery beyond the call. He was shot and gassed, but recovered, was awarded the Victoria Cross, and later became a member of Parliament in this Chamber.
I suppose today everyone has different thoughts about how they recall and reflect on Remembrance Day. I have often said that we do not teach enough Australian history in our schools. Americans are always talking about the Pilgrim Fathers and the Mayflower
, and people such as Audie Murphy, Davy Crockett and now Barack Obama. We should be talking in our schools about the things that mean so much to us. When I go to a school I often ask whether the children know much about what happened during the First World War. Very little is taught about that. I think a lot more should be taught. I often ask about the Light Horse Brigade and they look at me. We have not told one of the greatest stories of this nation, which is that of the Light Horse Brigade.
It goes something like this: In 638 the Muslims took control of Jerusalem and held it for nearly 1,300 years. The young Aussie troops were first thrown into battle at Gallipoli and they ended up with bloody noses, as we know. Their next task was to see if they could liberate Jerusalem. The history of Jerusalem shows that that was virtually an impossible task. The Muslims had taken over in 638 and eventually Christians and Jews were not welcome. Over the years, 11 or 12 crusades tried to liberate Jerusalem. All attempts failed; they could not get through the Turks and into Jerusalem. In 1795 Napoleon tried. Napoleon is one of the greatest military brains of all time. He could not do it. He could not penetrate the Turkish lines and I suppose the sinking of his fleet by Nelson probably had a lot to do with his failure. The English then tried with 28,000 troops and cannons and tanks and they could not do it. In desperation they turned to the Aussies and said to the Light Horse Brigade, "Will you have a crack at it? We have tried many times and we can't get through."
It should be borne in mind that there were 4,500 Turks in the trenches. Behind them was wave after wave of barbed wire. Behind that was wave after wave of machine guns, and there were cannons behind them. They extended from Gaza to the wells at Beersheba. They were totally manned and nothing could get through. The authorities said to the Aussies with their slouch hats and emu feathers, "Can you have a crack at it?" Of course, typically of Aussies—hopefully we have the same spirit today—they said yes, they would have a crack at it. They charged. The Turks could not believe that anybody would be foolish enough to take them on head-on. Today it is history that not only did they get through Gaza and the wells of Beersheba, but they were the first into Jerusalem and liberated Jerusalem. They changed history forever.
As I said, 800 Aussies jumped on their horses—some of them scrawny horses—and charged into Beersheba and Jerusalem with the cannons, crossfire, machine guns, barbed wire and the 4,500 Turks in the trenches. Only 34 Aussies were killed in the charge. It has to go down as one of the greatest victories of all time, not only for Australia but also in the history of warfare. I have spoken about the Light Horse Brigade many times over the years in this Chamber and it is only right that we should talk about them. As I said before, this is one of the great stories. Any filmmaker would have to grab the story of the Light Horse Brigade. It would have to be one of the greatest stories ever told, not only because it was a victory but also because it is a true story. It is an Australian story. It is one of the great Australian stories and something that should be repeated time and again in this Chamber.
On behalf of the people whom I represent in the electorate of Blacktown I today pay homage to all the people who fought in the war and those who lost their lives. It was a great cost to this nation and a great cost to the families. Families still hurt today because of their losses. One can imagine that. Without these people paying the great price they paid we would not have this wonderful country that we live in today. Today is the day to remember, and people such as the Victoria Cross winner from this Chamber and the Light Horse Brigade are very high on that honour roll.
Mr ROB STOKES
(Pittwater) [6.14 p.m.]: I find Remembrance Day a difficult thing to talk about because war is not something to be celebrated but something to be remembered. Certainly a memory was sparked by the words of the member for Macquarie Fields when he mentioned that Wilfred Owen poem which has the phrase "the monstrous anger of the guns". It reminds me of a story I was told as a little boy by my grandmother who said that as a little girl living in the south of England she could hear the guns at night and would cry herself to sleep wondering if her brothers had been killed. Reflecting on that I remember her also telling me about Armistice Day. She was working as a secretary in Lloyd George's office and remembers walking out into The Mall and there being scenes of delirious joy that this war to end all wars was finally over.
War is a very difficult topic to talk about and many of us here have stories and memories of loved ones and ancestors who have fought. All of those shape us and in shaping us it is also reflective of the communities we serve, which are built up stories of people who have been damaged or affected in some way by war, particularly the First World War. I too would like to acknowledge the bravery of William Currey and also pay respects to all members of Parliament who have served in time of war. As the member for Pittwater I should mention one of my predecessors, Sir Robert Askin, who served in the Second World War under another member of Parliament, Lieutenant-Colonel Robson, who was the member for Vaucluse. People on both sides of this place have served with distinction. Of course, two of them gave their lives in the First World War, Lieutenant-Colonel George Braund, from Armidale, and Sergeant Ted Larkin, from Willoughby. Both made the ultimate sacrifice.
I also endorse the placement of the plaque to commemorate the bravery of William Currey. Personal stories of courage, service and sacrifice remind us all and everyone who comes into this Parliament that Parliament is not above the people; it is constituted of the people. The experiences that members of Parliament have endured in time of war have been shared with other members of the community regardless of their profession. It is very important that we remember these personal stories of bravery and sacrifice because as Stalin once chillingly said: one death is a tragedy, one million deaths is a statistic. We must personalise these stories because otherwise the people become figures in a history book and they do not have meaningful stories behind them.
Behind every one of the more than 60,000 men who died in the First World War and each one of the 330,000 men and women who served in that war is a personal journey. Each is a breath that enlivens our connection not only to a tragic past but also to our society, our values and to our fragile yet endearing common humanity. Only if we continue to hear these accounts, these personal stories of human beings, can we truly give meaning to the phrase "lest we forget". It reminds me of another poet who was a bit like Wilfred Owen and had a change of heart because of his experience of war.
I refer to Rudyard Kipling, who was initially a defender of the Empire and ideas of conquest, but who changed as a result of the death of his son Jack. Rudyard Kipling's whole world crumbled with the death of his son. Having small children myself I can imagine what it must have done to him. It would rip a piece from you. It would be absolutely debilitating. He commented that after the First World War we had 40 million reasons for failure but not a single excuse. That reminds us again of personal stories that connect us to the past. As the First World War, in particular, fades in people's memories we need to keep these personal stories alive. A commemorative plaque is a way of giving a name to a horrible and awful conflict.
We must be mindful of the fact that Remembrance Day is not a day to recall only war, sacrifice and horror; it is also a day to remember the Armistice. That war came to an end and much of that sacrifice led to the peace that we enjoy in this country today. We might argue and debate with passion in this Chamber but we can walk outside the Chamber and chat with our colleagues who serve in different electorates, all facing similar problems and challenges. We must give thanks for the peace that we enjoy but we must also be mindful of the fact that millions of others on this planet do not enjoy that privilege. It must not be forgotten that wars are occurring in other parts of the world.
Some people have said to me that, as parliamentarians, we have to make sacrifices, but I am reminded of parliamentarians in Afghanistan who are wandering around with a bounty on their heads merely because they serve as democratic representatives of the people. Australians are very lucky. Today we remember an extraordinary collection of people who have served as democratic representatives of the people—William Currey among them—and who continue to serve to keep this place a place of the people. We remember their collective suffering, their strength, their courage and their bravery, and we pray that future generations will never have to experience the scourge, horror, sadness and sacrifice of war.
Mr DAVID HARRIS
(Wyong) [6.21 p.m.]: I speak in debate on this appropriate motion relating to the deeds of William Matthew Currey, which have been fully outlined by the Leader of the House, Mr John Aquilina. I fully endorse all the words spoken by those who preceded me. It is appropriate that on this ninetieth anniversary of the commemoration of Remembrance Day we restore the plaque to the Speakers Square. Tonight I would like to focus on some other aspects of significance. Remembrance Day has particular significance for my family as my great-uncle—my grandfather's uncle—was killed during the First World War. According to Charles Bean, the official historian who was mentioned earlier this evening, Lieutenant Duncan Chapman of the 9th Battalion in Queensland, after whom my grandfather was named, was the first person ashore at Gallipoli. Over the years there has been some debate about the first person to land at Gallipoli. Lieutenant Duncan Chapman wrote to his family—my family has copies of that letter—and he said:
I happened to be in the first boat that reached the shore, and being in the bow at the time, I was the first man to get ashore.
One of his men later confirmed that and Charles Bean said it was most likely that he was the first person ashore. Recently a bust of Duncan Chapman was placed in a museum at Maryborough where he lived, and local schools teach students about his deeds on that day. After being promoted to major he was unfortunately killed at Pozieres on 6 August 1916. He died charging a machine gun emplacement in France. Every time either Anzac Day or Remembrance Day is commemorated family members spend some time thinking about his deeds and remembering his sacrifice for us all. Tonight I emphasise that members of our RSL sub-branches are getting older and they are finding it more difficult to march. Very few, if any, of World War I veterans are left and World War II veterans are rapidly ageing.
That was brought home to me recently when a group of World War II veterans who served as part of Norforce—the force that defended north Australia—met in my electorate. Austin Woodbury, a constituent of mine, lovingly restored a World War II jeep, even though he finds it difficult to walk these days. Current Norforce members collected that jeep for their museum. When they were relating stories about when they served in that region I was struck by the fact that Anzac Day and Remembrance Day are all about remembering the deeds of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. However, those days also serve to bring people together to swap stories and to share that camaraderie now and into the future. At the afternoon tea on the day that they handed over the jeep, the original Norforce members who marched in the Anzac Day ceremony in Sydney handed over their regimental banner to serving officers—to the sergeant major and to the colonel—because they were no longer able to march and they wanted to ensure that their banner was still carried at Anzac Day ceremonies.
When they asked those two Army officers to carry the banner for them from now on I could see the emotion in the eyes of the two serving officers who accepted the banner. These people knew that they could no longer march but they wanted the history of their regiment to be remembered. I was struck by the fact that as servicemen get older and pass away, our youth and the future of our country remember their deeds in the future. Earlier the member for Blacktown said that schools did not teach enough about Australian history—Gallipoli, the Light Horse Brigade, and those sorts of things. When I was a school principal we took Anzac Day and Remembrance Day seriously, our ceremonies were formal, and lots of parents and members of the RSL attended them. Every child in the school completed a research project, a story, or a poem in remembrance of Anzac Day or Remembrance Day. The kids ran the assemblies and were diligent in remembering the importance of those ceremonies.
Anyone attending an Anzac Day or Remembrance Day ceremony would be amazed at the number of schoolchildren or young people from the Australian Air League or the Australian Army Cadets. Many young people wear their relatives' badges or medals, and some of them participate in the march to commemorate and remember family members. Today we remember those supreme sacrifices and we look forward to our young people carrying on those traditions, preserving the memories, and remembering the sacrifices of men and women who gave their lives in service to our country. Those traditions and that spirit must be passed on. I hope that each year on 11 November people do not forget what that date represents. I hope that our young people, through our schools, through education, and through what is passed on by their parents, keep Anzac Day and Remembrance Day alive and ensure that these important days that commemorate the sacrifices of Australian men and women are remembered forever.
Ms KATRINA HODGKINSON
(Burrinjuck) [6.28 p.m.]: I speak in debate on a motion that recognises that today is the ninetieth anniversary of the end of World War I. I acknowledge the bravery of the late William Currey and I endorse the Speaker's placing of his plaque in the Speakers Square. This morning I attended the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Cenotaph in Martin Place. On behalf of my electorate of Burrinjuck I was proud to place a wreath at the Cenotaph and to observe a minute's silence to respect our fallen soldiers. I pay respect to the family and friends of the late William Currey, a former member for Kogarah, and I also pay respect to his memory. I recognise the important role that he played in this place and for his nation. On Remembrance Day or Anzac Day we read stories that appear in local or major metropolitan newspapers about interesting characters that have taken part in our military history.
On the front page of today's Sydney Morning Herald
I read about Joseph Crew in an article by Cynthia Banham entitled "Back to the front revisiting Fromelles and Villers-Bretonneux". He was Australia's first professional soldier to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force, in 1914 aged 34. He had to first resign from his job because the Australian Imperial Force was a volunteer Army at that stage, which I found quite remarkable. The article talks about his family and how his wife refused to believe that he had passed away in 1917 and never registered his name to be included on the Mosman cenotaph and memorial. Joseph Crew's name now has been added to that honour roll. His wife refused to believe he had died, obviously because she could not bear to think of losing someone she loved so much, who was a father to three children and one adopted child. It is a very sad story.
I think back to 2002 when the passing of Alec Campbell removed our last living link to the heroes of the Gallipoli campaign. I use the term "heroes" deliberately and do not denigrate anybody's memory because in our minds those who fought for our nation now have a status equivalent to Hercules, Ajax or any other classical Greek hero. Their individual and collective feats of courage and endurance is beyond question, but their heroism at the Gallipoli Peninsula was not unique to Gallipoli. We have all heard of Lone Pine, The Nek and Quinn's Post, but not so many of us are familiar with the names of Zeebrugge, Mont St Quentin or Jenin. Australians fought at these and many other forgotten places. Many of them sacrificed so much to protect our way of life and, ultimately, our system of parliamentary democracy. We most definitely owe them a great debt of gratitude. We must remember that throughout all of this the vast majority of soldiers were just very young men sent to do a terrible job.
Back in 2002 we saw the photographs of Alec Campbell as a 16-year-old soldier barely taller than the rifle he was carrying. Imagine the parliamentary inquiries and the grilling of our defence chiefs and political leaders if it were revealed that today in 2008 children of that age were being recruited to fight in Afghanistan or Iraq. During the battle at Isurava on the Kokoda Trail an understrength battalion of 350 militia troops exhausted from earlier fighting, ridden with malaria and on restricted rations held the village of Isurava against the repeated attacks of more than 6,000 crack Japanese jungle troops until relief arrived. That battle saw the loss of HMAS Yarra, which was sunk on 4 March 1942 while protecting a convoy against overwhelming odds.
Moving forward a few decades to the Vietnam War we were often bombarded with images of moratorium marches and the anti-Vietnam War movement. Many still hold strong views about whether Australia's participation in the Vietnam War was right: 496 Australians were killed in Vietnam and a further 2,308 were wounded. I do not believe anyone who has spoken to this motion—indeed, anyone in this place— would believe that the sacrifice of an 18-year-old Australian soldier was any different in 1968 than in 1915 or, indeed, in 2008: they answer the call of their government and put aside their daily lives to protect our way of life. Like the Vietnam moratorium movement, the debate about whether Australia would introduce conscription during the First World War also divided the nation. This led to two referenda and the expulsion of Prime Minister Hughes from the Labor Party on 15 September 1916.
Today the divisive nature of the debates of 1916 and 1917 are not recalled at remembrance ceremonies and remain the province of historians. I believe we should not dwell so much on the events of the past but, rather, on the results of those events and how they affect our lives today. In 1901 we became a nation at a time when our soldiers were serving in conflict overseas. During our centenary 100 years later soldiers still served overseas in the Persian Gulf, East Timor and later in Afghanistan. With the recent focus on Iraq perhaps it is appropriate during this motion to look also at the RSL, the events that shaped it as an organisation and how the league is perceived today.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke very highly of the Returned Services League and recognised its long and proud history: a history almost as long as the nation it serves. The idea of an association of returned servicemen was first raised in June 1916, and by March 1918 all Australian States were represented in the league. Several name changes occurred until the trademark initials RSL finally emerged in October 1965. However, some things have not changed. From its inception in 1916 the league has remained true to the twin pillars it espoused in 1916: mateship and nationalism. It is very rare for any discussion on what it means to be an Australian to take place without referring to the sacrifices made and the mateship developed during the Gallipoli campaign.
In small country towns where the bank, service station, pub and even the post office have closed—which has happened throughout many towns and villages in rural New South Wales, not the least of which is in my electorate of Burrinjuck—one is almost certain to find a small cenotaph, memorial scroll or honour roll commemorating these sacrifices. It was the returned service men and women who built these memorials. For the past 90 years the RSL has fostered the development and commemoration of Remembrance Day and Anzac Day, and has nurtured and developed this important aspect of our national identity. During those years the RSL was not a stranger to controversy and strife.
A divisive and bitterly contested issue between the end of the First World War and 1983 was whether membership of the league should be restricted to returned servicemen. Thankfully, like the Good Friday riots of 1915 and the World War I conscription debates, that facet of the league's history has been relegated to a footnote on a history page. But I remember clearly throughout my school years the continued argument as to whether people other than returned service men and women should be allowed to participate in the marches. In following the contribution of the member for Wyong to this motion, I am pleased to say that many schoolchildren are told that they should take part in Remembrance Day ceremonies and Anzac Day marches. I totally encourage and highly recommend to all schools that a compulsory part of the school year should be to attend Anzac Day and Remembrance Day ceremonies.
The RSL remains the strongest voluntary association in Australia with an unmatched reach into nearly every community. The past century was a turbulent period in the history of the world. One could count on both hands the number of nations that survived that 100-year period with their system of government unchanged. Fortunately, Australia was one of those nations. We should all be profoundly grateful for our system of government and the freedoms we enjoy; freedoms that have been won and defended at such terrible cost; freedoms that have been and are guaranteed by past and serving members of the defence forces. Members of the RSL about whom we have spoken represent a unique type of person, the sort of person who says, "I will sacrifice my personal freedoms, I will sacrifice my comfort, I will go into harm's way to defend my country." Having served their country in uniform they continue to serve their country today.
The RSL remains a strong voice for traditional conservative values—values I share and hold dear. The RSL also has been an ardent and continuing advocate of a strong defence force, and supports serving members of the Australian Defence Force, including the reserves. Through its support of veterans and their families the RSL has shown strong advocacy for traditional family values. Through its youth programs and support for a cadet force, the RSL displays its faith in the future of our nation.
My father-in-law, John Seeck, put up his age to fight in World War I. Just like Currey, he could not wait to enlist and serve his country. He enlisted and went off to fight in the Great War. He was hit with shrapnel and ended up with a steel plate in his head. After he returned to South Australia he moved to Victoria and then to New South Wales. He fathered 16 children, four with his first wife and 12 with his second wife. My husband is the second youngest of those 12 children. John Seeck died in 1971. He is just another example of a man, a great Australian with an amazing story, which I will tell at another time. John Seeck is a classic Australian example of a very young man putting up his age to go to war in aid of his nation.
We must always remember that war is terrible and destructive. It is not glamorous, as a young John Seeck might have imagined it would be. Armed conflict is devastating. Those who have been touched by it are affected physically and emotionally as well as spiritually. During the last century more than 100,000 Australians gave their lives, and many hundreds of thousands more have been wounded, incapacitated or afflicted in defence of our freedoms. Those who served left these shores in the belief and hope that if they had to offer their lives, it would be in the service of something greater than themselves.
We should never forget that the freedoms that we enjoy today have been secured at a terrible cost. We should never forget or fail to hold in honour their sacrifice. In my electorate of Burrinjuck there are people who are currently serving in the defence forces or who have returned from armed conflict and participation in peacekeeping missions. They have worked in differing ways to build peace and to bring justice. They are entitled to our enduring gratitude. They deserve to be remembered. In Kohima, Burma, there is a memorial to the 2nd Infantry Division bearing an inscription by John Maxwell Edmonds. That inscription appears on many memorials throughout the world:
Lest we forget.
Mrs KARYN PALUZZANO
(Penrith—Parliamentary Secretary) [6.40 p.m.]: It is with pleasure that I participate in commemorating the war service of William Currey and in marking the dedication to his memory of a plaque in the Speakers Square. In common with other members of the House, in my electorate, Remembrance Day is significant to many of my constituents as well as to their families and friends. I pay tribute to the schools in the Penrith electorate that participated in Remembrance Day. Some schools chose other days on which to commemorate the sacrifice of Australian service personnel. Last week I attended a commemorative ceremony at Blaxland High School that was conducted by the school leadership group. It was an excellent tribute to Remembrance Day. The presentation included music and a PowerPoint presentation of visual images of the conflict of 1914 to 1919, but featured handwritten notes of a soldier to his wife and a letter informing the wife of how and when the soldier had been killed in action. The notes formed a link between conflict of the past to the commemorative ceremony conducted by students at the Blaxland High School last week.
I commend the principal, Keith Miles, and all students for their sensitive commemoration ceremony. Representatives of sub-branches of the RSL from Springwood, Blaxland and Penrith as well as members of the Blue Mountains group of the Vietnam Veterans Association attended the school's Remembrance Day ceremony. The Penrith RSL Sub-branch made a fitting tribute to Remembrance Day by redesigning Memory Park. We all know that there are many Memory Parks and honour rolls throughout New South Wales, and Penrith is no exception. In 1922, eight tablets were fixed to a rotunda. Through finance made available by the Penrith Girls Comfort Club, the tablets were affixed to brick walls. The first tablet bears the original plaque that was dedicated by the then Governor of New South Wales, His Excellency Sir Walter Davidson, on 8 July 1922.
This year, the Penrith RSL Sub-Branch commemorated the ninetieth anniversary of the dedication of the plaque by rededicating the honour roll and totally changing Memory Park. The motivation for the change has been the number of young people and families who are attending the Anzac Day Dawn Service, the Anzac Day marches and the Remembrance Day events. Members of the sub-branch raised funds over a number of years so that the honour rolls could be moved to a park befitting such a significant memorial. The war memorial was rededicated on 31 October, to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba 1917, and the current Governor of New South Wales, Professor Marie Bashir, performed the ceremony. It is fitting that a previous Governor of New South Wales, Sir Walter Davidson, dedicated the first plaque and that the rededication ceremony was performed by our current Governor.
The Governor's speech not only dedicated the memorial but also referred to the significance of young people in attendance. Her Excellency sought the endorsement from the young people in attendance of their becoming custodians of the memorial. A number of returned servicemen attended the rededication ceremony, including representatives from the Royal Australian Air Force, the Army, and the Navy as well as returned service personnel who fought in the Vietnam War. The Governor spoke particularly to the students in attendance and encouraged them to take an interest in the memorial so that in future it will be looked after in a manner befitting its significance. It should be noted that the memorial was designed by a local sculptor, Terrance Plowright, and took seven months to construct. The memorial features stainless steel representing a flame, and at night-time it looks as though it is alight. Behind the stainless steel flame, on a large rectangular plinth, there are four casts representing the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and nursing. That provides a backdrop on a sandstone frame. The memorial is quite large and takes up almost a third of the width of the park. It is pleasing that it was designed and constructed by a local resident with cooperation and support from various sub-branches of the RSL as well as from the Penrith City Council.
Laurie Tucker and his team undertook fundraising to create the new war memorial that we are proud to acknowledge now graces Memory Park. The honour roll lists those who served from 1914 to 1919, and the first plaque honours all the young boys from the Penrith area who lost their lives. As other members have pointed out, similar plaques honour many thousands of young men who volunteered but did not return, and Penrith is no different. Of the eight tablets, the sixth lists the names of 10 nurses from the Penrith district who served overseas between 1914 and 1918, one of whom was Adelaide Maud Kellett. Although there are quite a number of names listed on the honour roll, I draw attention in particular to Stanley Colless, who was born on 19 November 1892 in Penrith. He died on 1 September 1918 at Peronne in France. His service was recognised by the Award of Valour. Stanley Colless was mentioned in dispatches by his commanding officer, who wrote:
Sergeant Colless doing good work—my officers also of course. Would like you to say something to his man, he is doing splendid work.
Stanley Colless's efforts were recorded in the Nepean Times
in 1916 and 1917. He attracted the newspaper's attention not only because he was a local boy who had volunteered but also because of his award. On 16 September 1916, the Nepean Times
Word has been received by the parents of Lieut. Stan Colless (viz., Mr and Mrs H Colless of North Street, Penrith) that their gallant son has been awarded the D. C. M. for gallantry in action during recent operations on the Western Front. Lieut. Colless, who had been promoted to his present rank on the field from that of Sergeant-Major, enlisted some 16 months ago, and since leaving for the seat of war has seen much service both in Egypt and France. That he would comport himself with true Australian valour was never doubted by his many friends at Penrith, who, while delighted at his obtaining the prized D. C. M., are not really surprised that one of the grit and resolution of Stan. Colless had gained such deserved distinction.
The Nepean Times
of 10 February 1917 noted:
Mr and Mrs H Colless have received from their gallant son (Lieut. Stan Colless) the D.C.M. medal awarded him by the King for conspicuous valor on the field of battle and for which act of gallantry the recipient—then Sergeant—was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant
Lieutenant Colless was mentioned in the Nepean Times
of 16 March 1918 for his actions during his time as a soldier. The Nepean Times
of 21 September 1918 stated:
Fallen Heroes: Lieut. Stanley Colless, DCM, MC: The war continues to take its toll of victims from amongst the brave lads of this district who entered the ranks in defence of the Empire's freedom and liberties. The list continues to steadily grow, and already many of the best and most promising of our young manhood have paid the supreme penalty. This week it is again our painful duty to add further to the long list, and we feel sure the deepest sympathy of the public is with the bereaved relatives of the fallen soldiers—Lieutenant Stanley Colless, DCM, MC, Sgt Frank Abbott, and Corporal Henry John (Jack) Burrows.
The three soldiers were members of the Church of England, and the news of their death was sent through Rev N M Lloyd (acting Rector of St Stephens). News of Lieutenant Colless' death came through on Thursday, and Sgt Abbott's and Corporal Burrows' on Saturday. Out of respect for the three men, who have given their lives that we here in Australia may live in peace and comfort
I acknowledge that not only young men from the district served between 1914 and 1918, a number of nurses also served. Adelaide Maud Kellett was in the Australian Army Nursing Service. She was awarded the CBE and the RRC. She was born on 1 September 1873 at Raglan, New South Wales, and was the daughter of Charles Henry and Sarah Kellett. In January 1898 Kellett entered Sydney Hospital as a probationer, and was granted her nursing certificate in September 1901. In May 1908 Kellett joined the Australian Army Nursing Service. This was a voluntary position with a requirement that a specified number of hours of lectures, et cetera, would be attended each year. In October 1910 Kellett was appointed assistant to Rose Creal, the matron of Sydney Hospital.
Kellett joined the Australian Imperial Forces in September 1914 as a nursing sister. On 15 October 1914 Kellett, a member of the first nursing contingent, left Australia aboard the Euripedes
and served as a theatre sister aboard this transport ship. She stopped briefly at Colombo and then went on. In September Kellett was appointed to the hospital ship Gascon
, which was used to transport the wounded from Gallipoli to Lemnos. She described the trip to Gallipoli as follows:
Our orders arrived to proceed to Anzac Cove, which we reached the same evening, about six hours trip from Mudros Harbour our patients began to arrive about 6 pm, in barges, mostly medical cases I feared from the terrible firing, especially about 3 am, there would not be a single soul alive, and was greatly relieved and surprised in the morning, when the barges arrived, to find so few wounded. Left Anzac Cove on the night of the 12th of September 1915, reaching Mudros harbour early the next morning, put some of our patients ashore, and received our orders for Malta.
In 1916 Kellett went to Choubra Miliary Infectious Hospital, a semi-private Austro-Hungarian hospital prior to the outbreak of World War I, which contained 400 beds. The facility handled infectious cases such as diphtheria, typhoid, cerebro-spinal meningitis, mumps, measles and dysentery. She was in charge of a number of sisters there. She was also given a distinguished award. The Nepean Times
of 2 June 1916 acknowledged:
The many friends of Matron A M Kellett (daughter of Mrs Kellett of High Street, Penrith) who is now in charge of Marylebone Palace Military Hospital, England, will learn with patriotic pride and pleasure that Matron Kellett was awarded the Royal Red Cross (1st class) by the hands of the King at Buckingham Palace on 6th April.
Matron Kellett was on holiday in Ireland and was summoned to return to present herself to Buckingham Palace on the date noted to receive the coveted award. The Nepean Times
The Royal Red Cross (awarded to nurses) is the equivalent to the V. C. The conferring of this distinguished award stated by hand of the King on Miss Kellett, is by the way, extremely pleasing to the public of Penrith and district, as Matron Kellett is a native of the town, and in her girlhood attended the Penrith Superior Public School, at which many of the present generation were her confreres. The congratulations of the citizens will be extended to Mrs Kellett in relation to her esteemed daughter's merited distinction.
It is fitting that today I acknowledge these two young people, one of whom did not come home, and the other, Adelaide Maud Kellett, who did come home and retired many years later from the position of matron of Sydney Hospital. I also pay tribute to those men and women serving in the defence forces. Penrith has had strong links to the defence forces. We still have an Army presence, a RAAF presence at Lapstone and Glenbrook, and a Navy presence at Orchid Hills. I acknowledge family members who have served in military campaigns. I have two great-uncles who were in the Navy: Albert Burley and Robert Burley. It is interesting to note that, like many others, Albert Burley went to Victoria to enlist in the Victorian Navy as he was underage.
My father spent 32 years in the Royal Australian Air Force and retired as a warrant officer. He served in the Malaysian campaign. Today is Remembrance Day. In New South Wales and throughout Australia we have many people from many lands. Post World War II and many conflicts, Australia has opened its arms to refugees from around the world, and is still doing so. I refer to those who now reside in New South Wales and in Penrith in particular who have served in conflicts but may have served as members of the Japanese forces, the German forces, or the Italian forces. Many returned service men and women may have been in opposing forces in times of conflict.
I pay my respects to two men from Penrith. One is my husband's father, Carlo Paluzzano, who was in the Alpini corps from Udinese in Italy. Anyone who knows of the Alpini corps during World War II knows that it went to the Russian Front. Many thousands went to the Russian Front but only a handful returned. Carlo Paluzzano was one of the few who returned, but he did not survive for long after migrating to Australia and the birth of my husband. Livio Nassivera, who is my husband's stepfather and my father-in-law, turned 88 last Saturday. He spent six of his 88 years in North Africa as a prisoner of war. He used that time diligently by learning English and French, establishing a school and teaching maths. The prisoners educated one another and had market gardens. He also migrated to Australia soon after the war.
Livio came from Forni di Sotto, which is in the Alps of northern Italy. Those who know the terrain of northern Italy would know that not many towns survived during World War II. Livio's town did not survive. What did survive was a fountain but not much else. The churches and houses had to be rebuilt. He decided not to stay and migrated to Australia. He moved from the north of Italy to Bourke in Australia. He worked two years in the abattoirs and then came to Sydney and spent the rest of his time with Sydney Water. He constructed the Warragamba Dam. I pay my respects to all those returned service men and women and to those who are still serving in the defence forces. I acknowledge that William Currey, former member for Kogarah, is acknowledged in the Speaker's Square with a fitting rededication of a memorial.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted and set down as an order of the day for a future day.