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Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Page: 369


Ms FLINT (Boothby) (19:35): Sometimes, as members of parliament, we have local issues, stories of service and places of significance that deserve national recognition. It is important for me to speak about one of these today that combines all three factors: local issues I am fighting for, humbling stories of service and sacrifice, and a place not just of local importance but national significance.

In the middle of the 130 square kilometres of my electorate of Boothby lies a sports ground called the Women's Memorial Playing Fields. This eight-hectare site was established by Liberal Premier Sir Thomas Playford in 1953 to encourage women's sport and, as the name suggests, to remember those women who gave their lives for our nation during war. In fact, it is one of the few war memorials in Australia dedicated to our servicewomen.

Personally, I cannot think of a more fitting way to remember service women and nurses who paid the ultimate sacrifice for Australia than through this site. It was established not just as a war memorial where people gather to pay their respects to the women who gave their lives for our freedom but as a living memorial to these brave women. Each week, over the past seven decades, at the Women's Memorial Playing Fields, tens of thousands of women have played sports like tennis, hockey, soccer, lacrosse and cricket. Today, hundreds if not thousands of young women play on the ovals each week, which are home to the Blackwood Hockey Club, Cumberland United Women's Soccer Club and the Sturt Lacrosse Club. I know firsthand that these clubs understand the importance of the site.

Late last year I attended the Cumberland United Women's Soccer Club presentation, which included an acknowledgment of the wartime atrocity that formed the reason the fields were dedicated to our servicewomen. The reason will be commemorated by hundreds of people from around Australia this Sunday, 12 February, in my electorate, at the Bangka Day Memorial Service. This year is a particularly special year as it recognises the 75th anniversary of the massacre of 21 Australian nurses by Japanese troops on Radji Beach, Bangka Island, Indonesia. There are few wartime stories I know that match the sheer tragedy and atrocity involved in the massacre of these nurses. Next week, closer to the anniversary of the event, I will describe the circumstances these brave Australian women faced, but, for now, I wish to note that the Bangka Day Memorial Service has been held at the Women's Memorial Playing Fields each year for the past 60 years.

The memorial service and memorial itself is administered by a small and dedicated group of volunteers, no more so than President of the Trust, Mr Bruce Parker OAM, who received his Australian honour for the tireless service he has given to keep alive the memory of these 21 nurses and other servicewomen killed in war. Each year volunteers from the trust and sports clubs cater for hundreds of people at the service and each year they make the case for assistance to fund the desperately needed upgrades for the modest memorial and the playing grounds themselves.

I was disappointed to learn that, like so many local community groups before them, the trust's attempts to gain tax deductible gift status were refused. I intend to pursue this issue as a matter of policy reform, so that our local volunteers and community groups and projects can attract the funding they deserve. I thank the many ministers who have so far assisted me with this issue, including Minister O'Dwyer, and acknowledge those who have visited the site with me, including my state parliamentary colleague Sam Duluk MP, the member for Canning, Andrew Hastie, and the Minister for Veterans Affairs, the Hon. Dan Tehan.

I cannot thank Dr Madi Turner—who happens to be the sister of the member for Canning—enough for sharing her Honours Thesis 'Unsung Heroes: The Australian Service Nurses' National Memorial and the Politics of Recognition' with me, as it is one of the very few publications that explains the significance of having war memorials that recognise our Australian servicewomen and nurses and their sacrifice and courage. Finally, I thank Dr Brendan Nelson, the director of the Australian War Memorial, who will address the Bangka Day Memorial Service this Sunday, for his support, encouragement and advice.

As the member for Boothby, and the first woman to have held the seat since it was established in 1903, I believe it is my very serious responsibility to fight for the upgrade of the Women's Memorial Playing Fields and one of our few national war memorials dedicated to Australian servicewomen.