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Monday, 1 September 2014
Page: 9112

Mr MITCHELL (McEwenSecond Deputy Speaker) (11:54): I support this motion by the member for Chisholm. As we reflect on the Centenary of ANZAC we also remember the first conflict Australian people partook in, the Boer War, which occurred in South Africa between 1899 and 1902.

The electorate of McEwen contains the township of Seymour, which has a long military heritage with links back to the Boer War. One of Seymour's crowning glories is its rich military heritage. The town contains sites like the Vietnam Veterans Commemorative Walk and the Australian Light Horse Memorial Park. Seymour has been a site for military training since the late 1800s. During the Boer War Australians served mostly in mounted units formed in each colony before being despatched to South Africa. In Victoria, Seymour was one of the sites used for military training. Mounted troops who trained on the hills and plains around Seymour saw action against Boer guerrillas. These mounted troops where independent thinking and country bred, and their stock horses were particularly suited to the unconventional warfare being fought in South Africa.

More than 23,000 Australians served in South Africa; 1,000 never returned home. The Boer War saw six Victoria Crosses awarded to Australians for valour. Another 161 individual bravery awards were made to Australian soldiers during the conflict. More than 43,000 horses were also sent across the Indian Ocean, but only one returned. The sacrifices made by Australians during this conflict are only surpassed by World War I and World War II. Australia's contribution during the Boer War was very significant.

The war was the first in which Australia fought as a nation, but it is the only major war not already commemorated on Anzac Parade in Canberra. It is hard to believe that there is no national memorial to Australia's first conflict. The National Boer War Memorial Association has for many years been working to rectify this situation. It has diligently been advocating for proper national recognition. In 2008 a memorial site was allocated on ANZAC Parade. The memorial will be built alongside 11 other memorials, which include memorials to World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The memorial will commemorate the 1,000 Australians who made the supreme sacrifice in South Africa.

In 2012, Chief of Defence Force General David Hurley unveiled the design for the National Boer War Memorial. The memorial will feature a life-size section of four mounted troopers galloping through the bush of a wide open, rural landscape. According to Keith Smith, spokesperson for the National Boer War Memorial Association:

The memorial recognises that all Australian troops in the Boer War were mounted or dependent on horses to tow their ambulances, artillery and supply wagons, to match the highly mobile Boer soldiers. It recalls their endurance and sacrifice, cast in enduring bronze.

Work has already begun on sculpting the four bronze statues of Australian mounted troops in action, but without further government and private funding the memorial will not be ready for next year when Australia commemorates the Year of the ANZAC and our proud military history. Projects of this scale need a lot of support not only from government but also the community. The National Boer War Memorial Fund needs to raise an estimated $3.2 million to complete the memorial. I can only hope we will see support for this worthy project from the Abbott government.

Recently, due to Abbott government budget cuts, the National War Memorial was advised that $800,000 a year funding for its Travelling Exhibitions program would be cut forthwith, losing funding for what had been a 17-year tradition of travelling exhibitions from the Australian War Memorial.

I hope the Abbott government takes note of the national support given to this very worthy project by successive governments and also lends its support to seeing a national place of reflection comes to fruition to honour the memories of those who were the first to sacrifice so much for this great nation.