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Tuesday, 27 February 2018
Page: 2142


Mr GOSLING (Solomon) (19:50): The date 19 February is a national day of observance because on this day 76 years ago, in 1942, mainland Australia came under attack for the first time. On this day Japanese forces mounted two air raids on Darwin that involved over 260 enemy aircraft, killing at least 252 Allied service personnel and civilians. Last Monday was 19 February and I attended ceremonies in Darwin commemorating the 76th anniversary of this really significant event for our city and for our country—when Darwin was bombed. First we met at the USS Peary memorial and then at the Darwin cenotaph for the commemoration, including at 10 am a re-enactment of the raid complete with aircraft and anti-aircraft guns. It was a lot of excitement for the families who came along.

Also on this morning the Maritime Union of Australia had a commemoration at Stokes Hill Wharf for those seafarers and waterside workers who were killed when bombs rained down on the wharf. This commemoration goes back to 1943, so they held their commemoration a year after the bombing and every year since.

At the Darwin cenotaph the NT Chief Minister, Michael Gunner, reminded us during his speech of the heroic Tiwi man, Matthias Ulungura, who captured Japanese pilot Hajime Toyoshima on the Tiwi Islands. Toyoshima was the first Japanese prisoner of war taken on Australian soil after he crash-landed on Melville Island during the air raids. Matthias saw the plane crash on Melville Island. He broke from his hunting party, approached the Japanese pilot from behind, poked him in the back with the butt of his tomahawk and said, 'Stick 'em up.' I was sitting next to the Father of the House, the member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon, at the commemoration, who then explained that Matthias went on to say to the Japanese pilot, 'You come longa me, Hopalong Cassidy.' The Japanese pilot, very smartly, did as he was told and became the first prisoner of war taken on Australian soil.

A mate of mine, a Vietnam veteran and a bush poet, Waldo from Humpty Doo in the Northern Territory, penned this poem about the bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1942:

The bombs rained down on Darwin, what a sad and sorry day.

Prayers said for those who perished, what a shocking price to pay.

The war had reached our golden shores and some northern country towns.

While the people south of the Brisbane line thought they were safe and sound.

Enemy bombers spanned our skies as fighters flew below,

Attacking ships in the harbour like a giant lightning show.

Our Airforce tried to stem the bombing, but didn't stand a chance.

With the Imperial Japanese carriers, as their Naval fleet advanced.

Australia's Ack-Ack crews relentless, as they searched the northern skies.

From East Point 'cross the Stokes Hill Wharf, diggers died before our eyes.

Our courageous indigenous coast watch spotters were all on high alert;

They were bombed and strafed across their Islands and left dying in the dirt.

Japanese Zeros plastered bullets on the fuel tanks at Stokes Hill Wharf,

Then strafed A.I.F. Gun turrets, as they slowly changed their course.

They attacked the Catalina base at Doctors Gully then flew down by the shores

Where they bombed another flying boat base and turned around for more.

Then the bombers flew down Smith Street, Cavanagh as well;

Demolished shops and the Post Office, it was just like bloody hell.

Melville Island, Groote and Bathurst, Torres Strait and Broome as well;

Katherine also copped some flack, Strauss airstrip, Hughes and Pell;

The USS Peary's gun crew were outstanding as she slipped beneath the waves.

Now she rests in our beloved harbour, a proud US Naval grave.

Seventy years we've been allies through blue skies and 'cross the waves

We share a common bond for peace, Australia and the USA.

God bless our wonderful countries and peace be with you all.

Darwin, we now salute you.

I thank Waldo for that poem. I also want to acknowledge the fantastic commemorations that were held in Darwin last Monday. It was great to see the schoolkids there learning about this very important part of our history. Of course, we should always remember the fallen, as we do every 19 February, but we should also look after the living, so it was great to have Amanda Rishworth, the member for Kingston, come up and hold a veterans forum with us.