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Speech at the presentation of the annual Sadlier-Stokes scholarships, Villers-Bretonneux.



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The Hon. Danna Vale MP Minister for Veterans' Affairs Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence

Speech

26 April, 2003

The Hon Danna Vale MP Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence

At the presentation of the annual Sadlier-Stokes Scholarships Villers-Bretonneux

I am delighted to have the opportunity today to celebrate the friendship between Australia and France, by presenting the 2003 Australia France Foundation Sadlier Stokes scholarship.

The Sadlier Stokes scholarship commemorates the great courage of Lieutenant Clifford Sadlier and Sergeant Charlie Stokes during the battle to liberate Villers-Bretonneux.

Eighty-five years ago, the 51st Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force was making its counter-attack to recapture the town from the German forces, when it was pinned down by heavy fire from the woods.

Lieutenant Sadlier, who was leading his platoon out on the left, and Sergeant Stokes, from the next platoon in line, led a bombing charge against the enemy positions, destroying the machine-gun posts and removing a serious threat to the Allied assault.

For their gallantry and leadership Lieutenant Sadlier received the Victoria Cross and Sergeant Stokes was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

These were heroes of the war to liberate this land and I am pleased to say that neither France nor Australia have forgotten their duty to remember the service and sacrifice of such men.

Since 1989, through the Sadlier Stokes Scholarship, the Australian France Foundation has supported the education of students from the five districts with unique historic ties with Australia: Villers-Bretonneux, Bullecourt, Hendecourt, Fromelles and Le Hamel.

The scholarship is awarded to a student who demonstrates a strong interest in Australia and knowledge of our links with these five districts. It is designed to assist them in undertaking specialised studies or research at the tertiary level. Each project supported is selected according to its educational advantages for the successful student and its potential to reinforce the ties between France and Australia.

I am delighted to announce that the 2003 Sadlier Stokes Scholarship has been awarded to Ms Alia Assaf of Villers-Bretonneux.

I understand that Alia has demonstrated a deep interest in Australia. Her mother, an English teacher, frequently corresponds with Australian families, and Alia has shown considerable knowledge of Australian culture and history.

She is a determined and ambitious Medical student and I am pleased to say that she intend to put this scholarship towards visiting the flying doctors in Australia.

I am sure that this will be a wonderful experience for her and I’m delighted to be able to invite Alia to accept this scholarship.