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Wednesday, 24 June 2015
Page: 7435


Mr MORRISON (CookMinister for Social Services) (13:19): It is a great privilege for all members of this House to be able to participate in this debate on behalf of all our electorates around the country and to ensure that, for all time, the commemorations that took place on that date form part of our nation's permanent record—not just in this place, on Hansard, but also through the Australian War Memorial. I thank the War Memorial board and Dr Nelson for allowing such a fitting remembrance to be there for future generations.

Let the kings pass, and shallow pomp retreat,

This is the day of men greater than kings!

For them the drums of time shall ever beat,

And at their tomb death stands with fallen wings.

   …   …   …

Though in the eyes of grief may brim the tears,

Above grief stands a pride tears cannot drown.

These are the words of Dame Mary Gilmore, my great-aunt. On the day of the centenary commemoration of Anzac, I had the opportunity to read those words at the community commemorative service held at Cronulla Beach's natural amphitheatre. Our Shire community turned out on that day to dawn remembrance services in unprecedented numbers at Caringbah, Sutherland, Miranda and Cronulla, as they did all around the country. Caringbah RSL Sub-Branch started their service and march at 4.30, as they always do. The sub-branch reported double its usual crowd. Caringbah High School Captain Stephanie Sambudjo gave a moving address, and the service was accompanied with a pipe band. Thousands of people attended a wreath-laying service at the Eton Street Memorial in Sutherland. At the Miranda War Memorial, their crowds were double those of previous years, and it is estimated some 10,000 families and residents attended on that day. Eleven-year-old Charlotte Guest of Yowie Bay Public School spoke with a confidence, wisdom and understanding well beyond her years. She said:

By honouring them does not mean we are glorifying war. Anzac Day is not the day for political grandstanding or to present those who object to war with the occasion to protest. As Sir General Cosgrove stated "the soldier, above all other people prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war."

The Miranda RSL Sub Branch have expressed to me their gratitude to the community for coming in droves to remember the serving and the fallen and to the Sutherland Shire Council for the assistance they gave in providing an enhanced sound system to meet the needs of the increased crowd. Cronulla RSL Sub Branch recognised the need for a much larger venue and they moved from the usual location where the memorial is posited and settled on the majestic setting of Cronulla Beach that morning, where the sun would rise symbolically upon the waters of Bate Bay. Having attended the Cenotaph early that morning on behalf of the Prime Minister, it was a great privilege to return to my own community to join all of those down at Cronulla Beach with my own family, as we watched the dawn rise and as we commemorated.

The Cronulla RSL Sub Branch and Sutherland Shire Council were recipients of the federal government's Centenary of Anzac grants to support what was an extraordinary attendance down at Cronulla Beach. A cenotaph was erected with a three-metre-high white cross, adorned with a large crocheted red poppy and was secured by 250 sandbags, representative of World War I trenches. A large stage and screen had been installed for the expected crowds. Thousands of people calmly and quietly walked down to the beach standing shoulder-to-shoulder to remember and to honour those who served.

The choir from Our Lady of Mercy College, Burraneer, performed the hymns Recessional and Abide with Me.

A current serving officer of the Royal Australian Regiment, Phillip English, delivered the keynote address. On hand were 69 volunteers from Rotary Club of Cronulla to cook breakfast and lunch to feed the estimated 20,000 who attended there that morning.

Families came with blankets, chairs and picnics and set up for the morning to wait for cross to the Gallipoli Dawn Service later that day. Following the Dawn Service, Sutherland Shire Council organised a full program of events including a screening of the short film Jack and Tom, made by students from Miranda Public School and Port Hacking High School, which captured the hearts of all who saw it—you can look it up on YouTube. The film, with its use of the term 'Over the top', gave an account of two boys growing up together in our idyllic Sutherland Shire and then going off to war. In closing Tom, played by Mr Bruce Grimley, President of the Miranda RSL Sub Branch, remembers his fallen mate, Jack, at the Miranda War Memorial. The film provided the perfect segue to the Community Commemorative Service at 11 am.

Aunty Deanna Schreiber from Kurranulla Aboriginal Corporation welcomed us to country and spoke of the service of many Aboriginal people who also served our nation in the Great War. The Kurnell Public School Choir, led by Adrienne Brown, performed our national anthem. Local school and elected representatives, members of our emergency services and other invited guests planted a handmade poppy in a field of remembrance in front of the cenotaph down in Cronulla Park.

Hundreds of commemorative poppies were knitted, crocheted and felted by people across the Sutherland Shire and, indeed, across Australia. The 431 men and women from the Sutherland Shire who served in World War I were honoured with an individual poppy and name plaque detailing their service. Their names are inscribed on our 14 local memorials and honour boards. Sadly, 64 never returned and they rest now in foreign soil. Their histories are recorded in the book Service and Sacrifice funded by the Centenary of Anzac grants and published by the Botany Bay Family History Society, which I table for the House. It has been written by Marilyn Handley and Susanne Hewitt, who have spent five years researching the stories of these men and women, whose names appear on our honour boards. We are very pleased to have that now as a permanent record of all those who served. Those names now have a story behind them for our young people and for generations into the future. I commend Susanne and Marilyn on an outstanding piece of work.

I was very proud of my Mateship Trekkers. The member for Blaxland and I have engaged in the Mateship Trekkers for many years now. The Cook Mateship Trekkers, Georgia Sargeant, Joel Eaton, Hayden Sawyer, Shae O'Dowd, Matthew Read, Mitchell Palmer, Kimberley Short, Timothy Boland and Aaron Lovell all read first-person accounts of Sutherland Shire soldiers who served. Kane Hughes read the account of Private Benjamin Cook, who took part in the Battle of Sari Bair and the Battle for Hill 60. Private Cook was an original member of the Cronulla RSL Sub Branch. Emma Cullen told the story of Private Joseph Hayes, who was also part of the assault on Hill 60. His great-granddaughter was present at the service and she, with Emma, planted a poppy in his honour.

One hundred years ago, families all across Australia were receiving the terrible news that their loved ones had been killed in action. In 2009, our community received the terrible news that Sergeant Brett Till had become our 10th soldier killed in Afghanistan. Sergeant Brett Till, a highly respected explosive ordnance disposal technician from the Incident Response Regiment in Holsworthy, was killed by an explosion that occurred during a route clearance task in Southern Afghanistan on Thursday, 19 March 2009. A brave and courageous 13-year-old Taleah Till, his daughter, delivered a poignant and heartbreaking account of her father's service and his ultimate sacrifice. Taleah was joined on stage by Bree, Brett's widow, her older brother Jacob and her younger brother Ziggy, who was unborn when Brett was killed. Together they honoured their father in a deeply moving tribute, reminding us all of the sacrifice of Anzacs from 100 years ago even to the present time.

The service concluded with the recital of the Ode for the Fallen, by the three local RSL presidents, whom I wish to thank—Warren Thomas, Shirley Smith and Bruce Grimley. Afterwards there were performances and a great community coming together. I thank in particular Sutherland Shire Council Mayor Kent Jones, as well as CEO John Rayner, Kathryn Lord, Lynn Hoyle and others for their work in bringing together this very special day, and Meredith Laverty, and my own team, Louise De Domenico and others in my office, for supporting this very special day in our nation's history and very much in our shire's history.

I want to conclude by reading a poem written by one of the young people in our community. Just before the commemoration I attended the Cronulla South Public School. Kody Shute, a year 6 student, had written a beautiful poem which deserves to be read here in this place. He wrote:

Gallipoli, early morning,

Cold, frightened, and far away from home,

Boats heading towards beaches,

Crashing in surf and foam,

Running with bullets screaming past my head,

Mates not so lucky, falling beside me dead.

We fight for our families to be free,

We are the ANZACS and we will never flee,

Young and old fight side by side,

Back home our countries are full of pride,

100 years have passed and with a poppy and a stem,

When the sun goes down, we will remember them.

Lest we forget.

My great-aunt Dame Mary Gilmore, would be very proud of Kody Shute. He captured our feeling as poignantly as she did over her long life as a great lady of Australian letters.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: It is just on 1.30 pm and so the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour.