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Monday, 17 September 2018
Page: 9206


Ms SWANSON (Paterson) (10:42): On Friday night when I arrived home from Canberra my husband told me the great news that my Remembrance Day poppies were in flower. I couldn't wait to get up the next morning and have a look at them. I grow them, but in fact they really grow themselves as their red heads bob along in the sunshine. They serve for me as a personal reminder of the sacrifice our country has made. The poppies, along with my lone pine tree, serve that purpose so well.

It is so important that we acknowledge our local history, especially when those communities join with the larger world to achieve things that shape the world we live in today. Last week, the town of Kurri, my birthplace, began celebrations for the Centenary of Armistice—the agreement that the warring nations of World War I would cease fire. It is a town dear to my heart—my birthplace. In Australia, we mark the Armistice yearly, with Remembrance Day, as my poppies attest, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. It is worth reflecting that the Armistice was signed a century ago this year.

Kurri Kurri, like many others towns in the Hunter, was formed to house the many miners working in the coalfields. Today, we have a population of 6,000. Like other small Australian towns, Kurri played its part in the war effort: 432 men enlisted from Kurri, 80 perished and a further 212 were wounded. Of those men, one was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and there were 17 medals for bravery. One story of individual significance was about a young woman named Maud Butler. Maud wanted to serve on the frontline, but she was not allowed due to her gender. But that wasn't going to stop Maud. She bought a men's uniform and got a photo to test her disguise and climbed a ship's anchor and stowed away. She hid in a lifeboat and stole food from the gallery and mingled with the men during the day. Finally, Maud was found out as her boots gave her away—they were brown instead of black. She was summarily sent back to Australia—now famous. A few months later she stowed away again, but was quickly caught and warned not to do so again. Maud's desire to be part of the war effort was not crushed. She eventually became a nurse and started her own hospital. Not only is Maud Butler an Australian war heroine, she is a role model to all women and an example of a person using sheer determination to overcome social obstacles. Recent events here in this parliament have shown us that Maud's story still carries lessons for us all.

A book called No Shirkers from Kurri has been written by our terrific local historians John Gillam and Yvonne Fletcher. It relates the story of Kurri and those who served. Other tributes that mark Kurri's role in the Great War Armistice celebrations have been absolutely fantastically received and I thank everyone who's been involved.