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Monday, 26 November 2018
Page: 11313


Ms TEMPLEMAN (Macquarie) (11:37): It is a privilege to speak to this motion put forward by the member for Forrest and join with my colleagues on both sides of the House to mark this year's Remembrance Day. Remembrance Day this year saw thousands of people across the country, including in the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury, mark 100 years since the signing of the Armistice. RSL sub-branches, community organisations, schools and aged-care homes held ceremonies to honour those who have served.

At Windsor Memorial Park Gates in McQuade Park I joined hundreds of people to mark the occasion, at 11 o'clock on 11 November, as similar ceremonies occurred in Richmond, Kurrajong, Glenbrook, Springwood, Katoomba, Blackheath, Mount Victoria, Wentworth Falls and other towns across my electorate of Macquarie.

Our aged-care facilities also paused to honour the moment when, on the Western Front, the guns of the Great War fell silent. At North Richmond's Ron Middleton VC aged-care facility, residents and staff, helped by local high school and primary school students, remembered those who were wounded in all conflicts and those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. At the time of the signing of the Armistice, more than 60,000 Australians had lost their lives, including 45,000 who died on the Western Front in France and Belgium and more than 8,000 who died at Gallipoli. We can only imagine the relief that the troops and families would have felt as word of the Armistice filtered out and they heard that the war had finally ended—indeed, the relief that entire nations across the earth would have felt.

Both of my grandfathers served on the Western Front in World War I. Private Leslie Robert Templeman embarked from Sydney in October 1916 as reinforcement for the 19th Infantry Battalion. He arrived in France in March 1917 and was wounded in action six months later with a gunshot wound to his head and leg. After medical treatment and recovery in England, he was allocated to reinforcements for the 3rd Battalion, but the war ended before he could return to France. My mother's father, Private Herbert Raymond Axtens, left Sydney with reinforcements for the 12th Light Horse Regiment in October 1915, joining the regiment in February 1916 in Heliopolis. He was transferred to the 8th Brigade Machine Gun Company a few months later. He arrived in France in June 1916, but fell ill with influenza. He rejoined the Machine Gun Company at the beginning of November 1916 and remained with his unit until the end of the war, seeing many conflicts and battles. My grandfathers' stories of survival—and the stories they didn't share with their families of the ordeal, both physical and mental—were typical of those experienced by hundreds of thousands of young Australian men. Over the course of the four years of World War I, more than 416,000 Australians volunteered for service, with 330,000 leaving their families behind to serve overseas.

In marking the 100 years of the end of the war, I was privileged to oversee the awarding of several grants under the Armistice Centenary Grants Program. From a sandstone memorial in Lone Pine Peace Park in Leura, erected by the Rotary Club of Central Blue Mountains and Katoomba RSL, to a project by the Blue Mountains Woodturners in Glenbrook and one in Blackheath Soldiers Memorial Park, the efforts were many and varied. A standout was the new work commissioned by the Phoenix Choir that had a magnificent premiere to mark Armistice Day. Composer and conductor Rowen Fox's new work—'All This is Ended'—is based on a poem by World War I poet Rupert Brooke and had its first performance at St Finbar's church in Glenbrook followed by a Remembrance Day performance in Lithgow. The work, with complex layers, was performed by the Phoenix Choir, which has a wide mix of people: some who haven't sung since high-school days and others who have made music their career. Music has such power to move and reach people, and I was privileged to be asked to read a dedication at their premiere.

Another project marking the centenary is by Woodford Academy—part of the National Trust. The academy operated as a school from 1907 to 1925, and the project tells the story of each of the 57 ex-Woodford Academy students who had enlisted to serve in World War I. Each of these projects, and others that have received grants, are part of the history of World War I, particularly as it affected people in my electorate. As we mark the end of the centenary of the war, we remember the service of so many, then and now. Lest we forget.