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Monday, 15 September 2003
Page: 20106

Mr ANTHONY SMITH (9:13 PM) —I want to take the opportunity in tonight's adjournment debate to pay tribute to a special constituent who celebrated his 100th birthday last Friday. I speak of Mr Ralph Chapman of Silvan. I was honoured to attend a celebration for Ralph's 100th birthday yesterday at the Monbulk Community Centre, where, with more than 200 relatives and friends, Ralph's family paid tribute to him in fine style.

The likes of Ralph Chapman have witnessed some of the most significant changes in our nation's history and also some of the most significant developments in the world. When Ralph was born, in 1903, Australia's Federation was in its infancy and our first Prime Minister, Edmund Barton, was still in office. In the same year, the Tour de France held its first ever race. Then, like now, there was a massive drought across Australia and, indeed, throughout much of the world, creating tough economic conditions.

In the United States, the Ford Motor Co. produced its first product, the Model A car, and at a beach called Kittyhawk the Wright brothers flew their first plane. To be born at a time when cars and aeroplanes were just being invented and talked about and then to witness the massive transformations and advances they have made to travel in the world—from flying across continents in planes to the emergence of space travel—and to witness all the other developments that have occurred across the century, must indeed be breathtaking. To see Australia develop from a country of fewer than four million people to become a strong and confident nation and a leader in its region must also be fascinating. The most important thing for all of us to remember is that our country's success and position today owe a great deal to the hard work, sacrifice and tireless effort of people like Ralph Chapman.

The Chapman family story is typical of many Australian families. Ralph's grandfather arrived from England in 1849 with nothing but the hope of a new life. He travelled to central Victoria, where he worked as a blacksmith. Ralph's father married in 1894, having moved to Silvan in the heart of the Casey electorate in 1892. He was the fourth eldest in a family of 11 children. Their property being well located with a cool, temperate climate and good soil, the Chapman family produced a range of fruits from it. At 500 acres, the farm was quite large for its time. At one time the Chapmans were the largest strawberry growers in the Southern Hemisphere. Like other families, the Chapmans endured the difficulties of World War I, the heartbreak of the Great Depression and the following Second World War.

Over the decades, Ralph worked as an adviser to the department of agriculture and was a significant contributor to the Silvan community, through the local church, school and other groups. He was a founding member and captain of the Silvan fire brigade; he was also a founding director of Silvan Fruit Processors, a cooperative venture established to handle excess local produce. Ralph Chapman lived in the home he built and moved into in 1928 when he married, and he stayed there, incredibly, until just four years ago. He and his wife were married for over 60 years. Together they have seven children—three boys and four girls. Now living in more suitable accommodation, Ralph is surrounded by a loving and caring family. He likes nothing more than to hear news of the farm he helped create all those years ago and to see it first-hand whenever he can.

Ralph has seen much over his 100 years. During this time he has made a substantial contribution to the community and to his family. It was a pleasure to be involved in the family's celebrations for a very special person. The volunteer spirit and dedication to community has been handed on to his children and grandchildren. For instance, his son Gordon and daughter-in-law Linda are magnificent contributors to the local community in the Yarra Valley. They dedicate many hours to community groups such as Mont De Lancy, a historic homestead in Wandin that preserves and maintains the valley's important history. Ralph was justifiably proud to reach the age of 100, but at yesterday's celebration you could see that his greatest pride was in his children and grandchildren, to whom he has passed on the family baton and who are continuing the work he began in the community all those years ago.