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Thursday, 15 May 2014
Page: 3988

Mr BUCHHOLZ (WrightGovernment Whip) (10:57): During the recent recess of the House each member had the opportunity to attend Anzac Day ceremonies across the nation to commemorate the brave efforts of ANZAC veterans who served to provide a blanket of security for us as a nation that we sleep under on a daily basis. Anzac Day in my electorate, as for every other member in this place, is a day of high importance on our social calendars. To put that into context, for me to attend each dawn service in my electorate of Wright, I would need to be returned to office at eight consecutive elections. It would be only after 26 years of service that I could return to the first place where I attended a dawn service in my electorate.

However, this year I was privileged to travel along with my wife to France to attend the dawn service celebrating Anzac Day at Villers-Bretonneux. It was my first journey to France in this capacity. It was a most humbling experience. You knew when you walked onto the grounds of the memorial site at Villers that you were truly on sacred ground. You were in a place where the memories of soldiers and the memories of family members will live on forever.

For those who may never have the opportunity to travel to Villers-Bretonneux, it is a relatively small village which consists of maybe three or four thousand people. It does not have a major shopping centre. It does not even have a motel for one to seek accommodation for the stay for Anzac Day. One commutes half an hour back down to a town called Amiens. Villers-Bretonneux is located directly north-east of Paris and probably an hour south-east of Calais. It was a significant stronghold in the First World War, 1914 to 1918. The Germans had actually taken the community of Villers-Bretonneux. As the troops arrived, it was a battle of inches.

The community of Villers-Bretonneux has not forgotten and is still truly grateful to the Australian service men and women that served. We saw evidence of that when we walked up the main street to attend a function. An old lady of humble means, obviously not of a strong or wealthy position, shuffled up to us as if she was about to beg for money. She said, 'Are you Australian?' We indicated, yes, we were. She raised her hand, cupped my hand and put in a couple of old bullet shells. She said, 'They are for you. They are from your boys, they belong to you, and we will never forget the sacrifice that your boys made for us.' It was a very moving experience.

The contribution Villers-Bretonneux makes today to their memory on a daily basis is very humbling. Within the school there is a big placard that says, 'Thank you, Australia. We will never forget your efforts.' They have renamed streets Victoria Street and Melbourne Street. The pub is called the Melbourne. There was an AFL football game scheduled between locals. Dotted around the community were literally dozens and dozens of cardboard cut-outs of kangaroos, koalas and kookaburras—iconic animals synonymous with Australia. This is a community that will not forget the sacrifices of our men and women.

The memorial is probably five or six kilometres out of Villers-Bretonneux town. Because of the number of people that travel there, it is enormously logistically difficult to get there. You go through a tapestry of agricultural land which is nothing short of impressive. There are bright vibrant yellow canola fields with wheat paddocks. It is purely sensational to look at. It is very humbling when you have your tour guide say that this rolling picturesque view was once rivers of blood. (Time expired)