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Thursday, 19 June 2008
Page: 5382

Mr RAGUSE (9:12 AM) —When I was last talking about the importance of the Military Memorials of National Significance Bill 2008, particularly for my seat of Forde, I was discussing the significance of Camp Cable, which was established during the Second World War. It housed about 20,000 American troops. Camp Cable, as I explained previously, was located between Jimboomba and Logan Village. During the war, from 1942 to 1943, it housed about 20,000 American troops as part of the staging for the Battle of the Coral Sea off North Queensland. My point was about the need to enshrine our memorials. This bill certainly goes a long way towards establishing a process to allow communities across the country to give recognition to that visual history.

I also mentioned my childhood in a family that had a very strong military background. We very quickly lose that verbal history and that living history. My father tragically died 20-odd years ago. I remember the discussions that we had when I was a child about his experiences and the experiences of the region. He was a farm boy from Teviotville, which is just outside the electorate I represent. During the 1940s there was a mobilisation in the township of Beaudesert, which is also a part of my electorate, which established the 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment. He was a young man of 18. He and his brother were asked to bring their horses along and they mobilised the 2nd/14th. Obviously, the technology of war at that stage meant that the 2nd/14th, or the light horse brigades, were converted into other divisions and it became part of an armoured division. The people of Beaudesert these days probably are not even aware of that history, so it is important that we consider ways of ensuring that we maintain an understanding, and I believe that this bill goes some way towards that.

I was talking briefly about Canungra, which is a major military facility in my electorate as well. It is otherwise known as Kokoda Barracks within the Canungra military area. It was established during World War II and was revived during the 1960s until the end of the Vietnam War. The base provides a substantial permanent resident population as well as an ever-changing transient population due to the extensive ongoing training courses on offer at the base. In fact, the member for Eden-Monaro, the Hon. Dr Mike Kelly, did his initial training there and I believe that in subsequent years he has spent a lot of time at Canungra. It is very much for people who have served in the military. To some degree it has become almost a pilgrimage for them to return to Canungra. It has a significant history for a whole range of reasons, including the land warfare training done during the Vietnam War era and, in subsequent years, for other purposes.

I wanted to make note of this particularly because Canungra is obviously a well-known area now but in years to come, given the change that may occur, we may forget a lot about its history. It is so important, in fact, that it was recognised in a very famous song that many of you would know. It is a song by Redgum called I was only 19. Mr Speaker, I would like to seek your indulgence because I want to talk a little bit about the words in this song, but the only way to do that is to put it to tune. I would like to give you a little bit of an understanding of the importance of this song. It goes something like this:

Mum and dad and Denny saw the passing out parade at Puckapunyal.

It was a long march from cadets.

The sixth Battalion was the next to tour and it was me who drew the card.

We did Canungra and Shoalwater before we left.

I have put it to tune because people know that song very well. Without the reference to Canungra in that song, it could well have been forgotten.

Mr Johnson interjecting

Mr Pyne —He did not pick up the tune.

Mr RAGUSE —Oh, he did not? I tried to sing the Redgum version. It is a very famous Redgum song. I can sing it again, but not today.

Mr Pyne —Maybe at 11 o’clock at night after a few drinks.

Mr RAGUSE —Yes, point taken. I should say that the area has some significance because adjacent to the area of Canungra, Jimboomba and Logan Village is Beenleigh. Beenleigh was also an area of training during the Second World War. On that point, the town of Beenleigh has a school called St Joseph’s Tobruk Memorial School. It celebrated 50 years in 2003. Many are still not aware of its history, and it is rather significant. There was a parish priest, Father Owen Steele, who later became Monsignor Steele, in that diocese and it was from him that the school gained its title, Tobruk Memorial. During the North Africa campaign, Father Owen Steele became one of the famous ‘Rats of Tobruk’. On his return to Australia in 1943, Archbishop Duhig appointed him as parish priest of Beaudesert. St Joseph’s was built in memory of the men who served at Tobruk, and its history is well known today. Some of the remaining ‘Rats of Tobruk’ who are a part of the Beenleigh RSL at Mount Warren Park continue to involve themselves in that particular school and do a lot of fundraising. It is a memorial of significance, but under its current state, unless we are able to bring that into legislation, it may well be a school that will be lost to history in later years.

We understand, of course, that memorials are more than just bricks and mortar or glass and steel. I remember that as a child many of the memorials I saw around our district were made of timber. I presume that a lot of them just no longer exist. It is important, again, that we ensure that we can somehow give significance to these areas. These memorials are important because they are about people, their families and their descendants. Our nation pays tribute to and commemorates these men and women who have served and particularly those who have made the supreme sacrifice. We put a lot of effort into our commemoration of these events and so we should not forget—in fact, we will not forget. I think this bill will take us some way to being able to ensure that.

I also want to pay tribute to the veterans organisations in my electorate and those men and women who give generously of their time in both voluntary and other capacities: the Beenleigh Logan Village and Jimboomba RSL and the VASA organisation based in Jimboomba, who specifically looked after Vietnam veterans but have now widened that service. I have previously mentioned in the House that they do a lot of work to support current veterans and their families. I would also like to mention the current RSL president in Beaudesert and the committee chair, Errol Guilfoyle and Dave Ardrey respectively, who have worked very hard in our community to ensure that the veterans are looked after and that we do not forget the sacrifices made. I also pay tribute to the RSL ‘girl in a million’ from Beaudesert, Jessica Brown, who recently went through a whole range of fundraisers. The funds from the ‘girl in a million’ quest essentially go to supporting veterans and their families.

Adjacent to the area of Canungra, which I spoke about a minute ago, is an area called Camp Tabragalba. It was a very famous area that has somehow been lost in time. It was originally a site for training, including for the ‘Z’ force, who I believe were part of the liberation forces in Singapore in the Second World War. This site has almost been forgotten and until very recently it was listed as a possible site for a water storage facility in that region. Because of that, the site has been left unmaintained and today it is a series of very old, dilapidated—but historically significant—buildings. I am pleased to say that a private investor who has bought an adjoining property, a fellow called Steven Searle, has become a benevolent protector of this military history and has begun establishing on the neighbouring property what I believe will be a world-class air and military collection. This is to preserve our military history, which will include the old Camp Tabragalba. I was talking to the Hon. Mike Kelly about this the other day. He is aware of Camp Tabragalba and its significance and was interested in knowing a little bit more about how we might put some investment into that area. It is conceivable that legislation allowing the national recognition of historic memorial sites will further encourage private investment like that of Steve Searle’s and his aptly named Wirraway property. Further down the road is the Beaudesert township, which, as I said before, saw the major mobilisation of the 2nd/14th in the Second World War. I think it is something we need to give significant recognition to.

Because there is no memorial of this event, it is probably an indication of how history can easily be lost when, as I said before, those World War I veterans and their living history are now no longer with us. While we have captured a lot of that history, the fact is that we no longer have those people in our presence, and they will be followed by the World War II veterans. There are far, far fewer of them. In fact, my mother, as I mentioned previously, was in the WAAAF, the women’s air force. She was a spotter-plotter for the Battle of the Coral Sea in Townsville. In fact, she was there during the bombing. She has her recollection—at 87 years of age she has a very good memory—but while I remember the stories, and we have recorded them to some degree, it is important that we do not forget to record that verbal history. I believe these memorials of significance will mean that we can have a visual history that is maintained. As I said, this is about preserving our military history. Once that history is gone, it is lost forever and future generations will lose that military history. Lest we forget. I commend this bill to the House.