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Wednesday, 18 June 2008
Page: 5258

Mr GRAY (Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Development and Northern Australia) (6:28 PM) —I rise to speak today in support of the Military Memorials of National Significance Bill 2008. This bill not only acknowledges the significance of the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial in Ballarat but creates an opportunity to give recognition to other significant memorials throughout the country. Rockingham, in my electorate, holds the second-biggest Anzac morning march-past west of Adelaide. The City of Rockingham Returned Services League, currently headed by the very capable Trevor Soward, does a fantastic job in organising a truly inclusive commemorative day. Rockingham, however, is a Navy town, so this year was, of course, special due to the recent discovery of the HMAS Sydney. In Western Australia the discovery of the Sydney evoked memories of a time of dark days—days of great peril, of love and of loss.

The month before the Sydney engaged the Kormoran off the Western Australian coast, John Curtin courageously assumed the Prime Ministership of Australia. In the two years of war up to 19 November 1941 about 2,000 Australian service personnel died. The loss of the Sydney in a few hours of action off Australia’s own coast increased that number by 645—no small proportion. The following three years would see a further 37,000 die. The next three months saw Pearl Harbor and the bombing of Australia’s northern shores at Darwin, Wyndham and Broome. In the lead-up to Anzac Day, I spoke to a number of current and former Rockingham residents about the loved ones that they had lost on the Sydney that fateful day in 1941. I spoke to Leslie Taylor, who told me of the loss of his 21-year-old brother, Able Seaman Kenneth George Taylor. Les is 84 this year. He donated $100 towards the search effort when he heard they were looking for the Sydney. ‘I wanted them to find her,’ he said. For Les, finding the Sydney has at last set his mind at rest about his brother. Barbara Woods was only 14 when she heard that her brother Ray might be lost on the Sydney. Barbara remembers the telegram, the confusion and the search for her 22-year-old brother. Barbara told me of her sense of relief at finally knowing what happened to Ray.

As we speak, Trevor Soward and the RSL at Rockingham are already preparing for 19 November, the anniversary of the date the Sydney went down, to organise a local commemorative event to the men lost in 1941. I encourage all members of this place to discuss with their local RSLs and their Navy clubs ways to commemorate the 645 men of the Sydney. I visited the HMAS Sydney memorial at Mount Scott in Geraldton recently. It is a fitting tribute, and it should qualify under this legislation for recognition as a memorial of national significance.

In thinking about places and events of national significance, I must acknowledge the port city of Albany in the Great Southern region of Western Australia. For years Albany has been my family’s preferred summer holiday haven. There are good reasons why Albany is significant to the Anzac story and there is definitely more than enough reason why an Albany memorial should be considered for recognition as a memorial of national significance. The Anzac legend was born on the shores of modern day Turkey on 25 April 1915, when the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps invaded the Gallipoli peninsula. This daring but unsuccessful campaign ended after eight months and over 25,000 Australian casualties, with over 8,000 deaths. Albany’s role in this story may not be automatically clear, but I, like many who are residents of the Great Southern, often think of Albany and Anzac in the same thought. Albany is significant for two reasons. Firstly, the troops who were to die, be wounded or survive the shores of Gallipoli assembled off Albany and departed Australia from this harbour, with the first convoy departing on 1 November 1914. Secondly, the Anzac Day dawn service—which is now a part of our cultural heritage—traces its roots back to a service held on Mount Clarence in Albany.

The troops involved in the Gallipoli campaign were from the length and breadth of Australia and New Zealand. Each state and New Zealand supplied a quota of troops, who made their way by sea to the rendezvous point off the port of Albany. The ships began to assemble from 24 October 1914. When they arrived in King George Sound, Albany, the troops were not allowed ashore, although many did get a trip to land to take part in marches or other organised excursions. Charles Bean, war correspondent and historian of the First World War, describes in great detail the final departure of our young men from our Australian shores. He writes:

At 6.25 on the morning of November 1st, in bright sunlight, with the harbour glossily smooth, the Minotaur and Sydney up-anchored and moved out between the sun-bathed hills to sea. At 6.45 the central line of ships (known as the ‘first division’ of the convoy) started, the inshore ship (Orvieto) leading, and each of the others turning to follow as the line passed them. Half an hour later the second division of transports followed; then the third; finally the New Zealanders in two divisions.

By 8.55am all 36 transports (26 Australian and 10 New Zealand) with their three escorting cruisers had set off.

The ship Sydney, which Bean referred to, is of course HMAS Sydney I, the predecessor to the Sydney II sunk off the Western Australia coast in November 1941. The first Sydney was a distinguished light cruiser that, as it was protecting the Anzac convoy, sank the German ship Emden near the Cocos Islands—not so far from the location where the Sydney II went down 27 years later. For many of the troops who fought at Gallipoli, Albany was the last that they ever saw of Australia. That spring morning at dawn, Albany townspeople lined the shores and assembled on the summit of Mount Clarence, overlooking Princess Royal Harbour and King George Sound, to watch the convoy carry the men to war. Local Albany boy John Swain was one of the men who left with the first convoy, bound for the shores of Anzac Cove where, on 25 April 1915, he was in one of the first waves of soldiers to hit the beach. After being severely wounded in the hip while climbing the steep scrubby hills of Gallipoli, with casualness he wrote home to his mother, reassuring her that he was all right. ‘The bullet broke no bones, only made a clean hole right through and both wounds are healing up nicely,’ he said, adding that he did his bit before being wounded.

Albany clergyman Reverend Arthur Ernest White did much to promote the commemoration in Albany of the sacrifices of the Anzacs. After being shipped back to Australia, having been gassed and wounded on the Western Front, Reverend White was given permission to hold a special requiem mass for the battle dead at the altar of St Johns Church in Albany. After the service, he and some of the Albany townspeople climbed to the summit of Mount Clarence. As he looked out over the harbour, he said:

Albany was the last sight of land these Anzac troops saw after leaving Australia’s shores and some of them never returned. We should hold a service (here) at the first light of dawn each Anzac Day to commemorate them.

Reverend White is not well known in Australian history, but the tradition that he established endures today as the dawn service. It is a tradition that grows stronger every year. The people of Albany remember well their role in the Anzac story. Following in the tradition set by Reverend White, today they hold the dawn service on Mount Clarence at the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial and a street parade and memorial service on the foreshore. I have attended the dawn service. It is the most moving dawn service in Australia. I have been to many dawn services throughout the country, and I think we do a good job of acknowledging the sacrifice made by our service men and women and their families. The Perth service draws an impressive crowd and Canberra’s, of course, is the national service. But the Albany service would have to be the most poignant, the most touching, of all.

Standing on Mount Clarence looking out across Princess Royal Harbour as the sun slowly rises over the archipelago, you can visualise the Anzac soldiers sailing to war. At the end of the service, two boats come from either side of the heads and launch symbolic flares into the dawn sky. There is rarely a dry eye on Mount Clarence. Albany’s link to the Anzac story and the well-organised and inclusive service make it a truly worthwhile event to attend. If you cannot get to Gallipoli, you must witness a dawn service at Albany. In the Western Australian parliament, the local member for Albany, Peter Watson, is proud of the strong relationship that exists today between Albany and Gallipoli. In fact, the Mayor of Gallipoli and the Mayor of Albany signed a friendship agreement on Anzac Day in 2003.

After the Anzac Day parade on 25 April 2008, work began on a memorial to the fallen soldiers of the First World War. The City of Albany and the local Returned and Services League have long held a plan to make Albany a national centre of Anzac commemoration. They are right to do this. We in this place should support their initiative. Albany was the last port of call for those who forged the Anzac legacy through their sacrifice and struggle—the last port that they saw Australian shore from. Three-quarters of those who sailed in the first convoy would eventually return to Australia wounded. Thousands more would not return at all.

This bill provides the perfect avenue to recognise Albany as it should be recognised. Albany is perfect as a site for a memorial of national significance. Likewise, I believe that the 100th celebration of the Anzac landing will be an event of great national significance. I believe that the commemorations should begin not on 25 April 2015 but on 1 November 2014 and that they should begin at Albany.

As a final note, I would like to share more words that Reverend White recited as he stood overlooking King George Sound as a wreath floated slowly out to sea, in an event that created the first dawn service. He said:

As the sun rises and goeth down we will remember them.

I commend the bill to the House.