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Monday, 1 September 2014
Page: 9109

Ms BURKE (Chisholm) (11:44): I move:

That this House acknowledges:

(1) that as we approach the Centenary of ANZAC we also reflect on the forgotten war in which Australians first participated—the Boer War;

(2) that as a parliament and parliamentarians we remember the beginning of Australian military history in which more than 23,000 Australian men and women put on uniforms to fight in South Africa and that about 1,000 paid the ultimate sacrifice;

(3) the amazing work that the National Boer War Memorial Association is undertaking to ensure that this war is not forgotten by advocating and raising funds for the erection of a specific National Memorial on ANZAC Parade, Canberra, to honour those Australians who served in the Boer War; and

(4) the need for additional funding to see this beautiful memorial, with its 1.5 times life size mounted troopers in bronze, which already has Government approval, a designated site and finalised design, to be completed by 2015 as part of our celebrations of Australia’s proud military history.

All wars are important, particularly to those who are profoundly affected by them—families, civilians, servicemen. However this war, the Boer War, has a particular place in our history and we should remember it. It is something we do not do. We came into being as a nation during this conflict—something pretty unusual for any nation.

At the outset, I want to thank Bill Woolmore from my electorate who is very involved in the Boer War Memorial Association for bringing this matter to my attention and asking me to remember this war and leave a mark for future generations so we never forget in the form of a magnificent memorial.

Australia's contribution to the Boer War of 1899 to 1902 was massive considering our small population at the time. Twenty-three thousand men and women from Australia served in South Africa. About a third of these did not serve with our forces because too many people volunteered and made their own way to South Africa. There were also many Australians living in South Africa before the war and they also joined many units.

Our countrymen did us proud in the Boer War and left a lasting impression. They also set the foundations of Australia's military history—a benchmark and a group of experienced officers for our later conflicts in the First World War. The Boer War was the first time that Australians and New Zealanders served together in War. About 1,000 Australians made the supreme sacrifice in the Boer War, by far our greatest loss outside the two world wars of the 20th Century. We also were awarded our first Victoria Crosses in South Africa as well as 161 other awards for gallantry. Forty-three thousand horses were also sent to South Africa at the time and none returned home. Many were lost to the harsh conditions and many were shot at the end of the conflict.

Major General lain Spencer, speaking at this year's Boer War address in Melbourne, commenting on our soldiers, said:

Although, they joined up for a variety of motives, as young men do, including seeking adventure, economic pressure, or even to escape an unhappy home life, patriotism generally played a part. There is a common theme in many of the contemporary records of fighting to help the mother country, for empire, and also for Australia—to show we were worthy of nationhood in our own right.

He went on to say the importance of the Boer War goes beyond this. We often talk about Gallipoli being the baptism of fire, where we forged our national and military history but—and it is a big 'but'—he thinks this came from the Boer War and that the crucible of Gallipoli was born in the Boer War.

He said:

We had already redefined our attitudes to the British military. While we desired their respect as professionals, we knew we were better. We knew this because during the Boer War we had begun the process of defining our military characteristics: toughness, good humour, compassion and a healthy disregard for useless rules. We were fighters, not spit and polish parade ground soldiers; men and women who kept on under all conditions.

On returning to Australia from the war, many soldiers were carrying severe physical and emotional wounds and, unlike today, there was only minimal support for them and their families. They were welcomed home and many memorials were built but there has never been a national memorial. This is not something that is sinister—again, Canberra was not created until well after this conflict and there were two major conflicts after this so many things happened that prevented the idea of a Boer War memorial coming into being. But the idea has never gone away. These events need to be remembered. Our nation needs to honour the first men and women of Australia who went to war and pay the debt of gratitude owed to them. We need to remember the Boer War more than just the situation of Breaker Morant and Peter Hancock—that is the what most people have the impression the Boer War as. But we need to ensure that the great bravery that was shown at Elands River conflict and the Mafeking siege are also remembered. Amazing spirit was shown in these conflicts.

The National Boer War Memorial Association has raised more than a $1 million but another $3.2 million is needed. This war deserves a special place in our memory. A site has been dedicated to a memorial. There has been a huge competition. Now Louis Laumen is now creating an amazing sculpture in bronze. He has already been commissioned and has cast in bronze the first horse with the second on the way. But, for this to be completed, more money is needed. So I am calling on everybody out there in the public to jump online, go to the Boer War memorial site at and register today to be part of this. Government needs to get on board in order to make this memorial a reality. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Broadbent ): Is the motion seconded?