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Wednesday, 16 March 2005
Page: 63

Senator STEPHENS (1:42 PM) —A prominent landmark in Goulburn is a 20 metre tower on top of the city’s highest peak: the Goulburn War Memorial and Museum. The tower is floodlit at night by a rotating beacon and can be seen by people approaching the town from any direction, as many people in this chamber will know from their trips to and from Sydney. The war memorial was built by public subscription and officially opened in 1925 as a lasting tribute to the men and women of Goulburn and district who served in World War I. It includes the tower itself; the original caretaker’s cottage, which houses the museum; and a cottage garden which has been redesigned with areas for contemplation, memorials, sculptures and plaques. The permanent display includes a tablet, inscribed with the names of those who enlisted from the Goulburn district, and a collection of artefacts allocated to the city of Goulburn after World War I.

During the war, official historian Charles Bean collected hundreds of objects. Most of them are now held by the Australian War Memorial. However, in the 1920s, some were distributed to large country towns, including Goulburn, and there is good reason to believe that that is the only town where the objects sent out in the 1920s are still intact and on display. Many of the artefacts are German, captured by the advancing allies during the last months of the war, and others were donated to Bean’s collection posts. Thanks to the combined work of the council, museum officers and curators, researchers and volunteers, these items have been carefully preserved and displayed.

A facility such as Goulburn’s War Memorial and Museum plays an important role in bringing together a rural community of all ages. Last year, thanks to a $3,000 grant from the federal government, seating and handrails were installed on the steep trail leading up to the war memorial to improve the access for senior citizens, especially veterans. But I have observed that those facilities are also being used by the young. It is great to see parents bringing their children to the museum and knowing that our history is being kept alive and that the sacrifices made in the past are not being forgotten.

Last year, as part of the ANZAC celebrations, the Goulburn Mulwaree Council received a gift of a Turkish private soldier’s uniform from the Turkish Ambassador, Mr Tansu Okandan. This uniform is now on display in the museum. It is part of an attempt to create a full picture of the First World War experience, alongside stories such as the famous ‘Men from Snowy River’ recruitment march in 1916.

This march was initiated by a young Adaminaby man, Private William Baragry, who asked others to join him to ‘fill the gaps made in Gallipoli’. The march began at Delegate on 6 January and reached Goulburn on 28 January 1916. By the time they reached Goulburn, 141 men had joined the march. William Baragry died of pneumonia at Goulburn while he was waiting to embark overseas. His brother Edmund, who had joined the march with William, was killed in 1917 and is commemorated on the memorial in the Villers-Bretonneux military cemetery in France, along with over 10,000 Australian soldiers who fell in the surrounding battlefields and who have no known graves.

Another story captured at the museum is that of William Punch, who also died in 1917. William Punch was reared by the Siggs family. He probably came from Bland in the Wagga Wagga region, where John Siggs and others commonly went droving cattle. His entire family was killed in a raid, and the story goes that young Siggs came upon the scene, found the baby still alive, picked him up and rode home with him to Goulburn. Although Indigenous Australians were initially banned from enlisting in combatant roles in the AIF during World War I, it is known that Aboriginal soldiers have served in every military conflict Australia has been involved in since Federation.

Enlistments from the City of Goulburn in World War I totalled 851, and from the surrounding districts the total was 3,117, including 29 nursing sisters. The departing contingents were entertained and farewelled lavishly. More than 90 per cent of the boys who had passed through Goulburn’s Kings College in the previous 20 years enlisted, mostly with the Light Horse Regiment. Few people outside the town would know that from 1903 Goulburn was headquarters of the 7th Regiment, claimed to be the oldest Light Horse Regiment in the Commonwealth. Young men from Yass, Mittagong, Braidwood, Young, Canberra and Cooma as well as Goulburn joined this regiment and 4,000 officers and men saw war service in Egypt, Gallipoli, Sinai and Palestine. Very few of them returned. When the federal government believed its conscription proposals would be carried, a special camp was started in Goulburn for those compulsorily called up. While the AIF drilled in blue dungarees, the conscript ‘Hughesiliers’ wore yellow. When the conscription referendum was defeated, a few of the Hughesiliers enlisted, but most of them returned to civilian life and the camp was disbanded at the end of 1916.

In Goulburn our sense of history is strong, but nowhere is this more evident than in the work of the volunteer group, the friends of the museum, which was formed in late 2000 to coincide with the official 75th anniversary celebrations and the opening of the relocated Goulburn War Memorial and Museum. Through the dedication of Tim Guyer and Peter Mowle, Bob Saunders and Gillian Webber, amongst others, the friends have made a significant contribution and deserve much more recognition than they would ever seek. Judy and Philip Fowler have been inspirational in their work with both the museum and Landcare projects around Rocky Hill. The friends of the museum maintain and clean the artefacts, the building and the grounds. They undertake research and field trips. They raise money and tirelessly promote the museum. They have been reframing a collection of 80-year-old black-and-white photos from WWI and restoring two pen-and-wash drawings from the Sudan campaign of 1885.

The museum has an interesting link with Belgium through William Leggett, the first Australian to die at the Western Front, who fell in Gheluwe in 1914. A monument depicting Leggett falling from his horse was constructed from a large piece of steel, which left a ‘negative’ or reverse memorial. Now, school children in Gheluwe and Menen have decorated this reverse with bronze war memorabilia to create a separate monument. The two towns have arranged with the Friends of the Goulburn War Memorial and Museum to ship this monument, free of charge, to Australia. It is to be unveiled in the war memorial gardens in Goulburn on Armistice Day.

Recently, I was invited to attend the opening of an exhibition, which is to happen next month, of artefacts from the infamous Changi prison, used by the Japanese to hold allied troops upon the fall of Singapore. I will be very proud to attend that opening, as this exhibition is the result of a truly extraordinary cooperative effort. The story of the Changi artefacts began with the news in October 2003 of the imminent demolition of the Changi prison on Singapore Island. Concern about this decision was expressed by many sections of the population, including, of course, the RSL. Many Australians regard Changi prison as one of our country’s darkest wartime memories. Some 15,000 Australian soldiers were incarcerated there. Of these, 33 were from Goulburn, so local interest in the closure of the prison was high, and the idea emerged to obtain some relics for display in the local museum.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Downer, was keen to preserve parts of Changi prison that were of special interest to Australians. He appointed a staff member to liaise with the Singapore Department of Prisons and other authorities to enable some artefacts to be earmarked for Goulburn. As Bob Saunders, the curator at the Goulburn war memorial, has observed, ‘There is no doubt that without this support the artefacts would not be here today.’ Nothing is ever easy, though, and the museum then had to find a way of transporting the artefacts. So they approached the Navy, and Rear Admiral Moffitt at Maritime Command agreed to send the artefacts to Australia on HMAS Success. After a brief period in quarantine, the items were collected from Garden Island and delivered to Goulburn. Among the larger artefacts are: a cell door from the prison, complete with its lock; a one-metre square section of concrete boundary wall; and a metal grill which once fitted above a cell door. Small items include two ‘anti-climb’ hooks and two cell door brass number plates.

I cannot stress too strongly how fortunate Goulburn is to have these artefacts. Apart from the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and the British Imperial War Museum in London, Goulburn’s museum is believed to be the only other one to receive such artefacts. So it is with pride that I put on the public record the commitment and dedication of the friends of the museum: those I have already mentioned and also Ray and Edna Waters, Ray and Lesley Cumberland, Ken and Carol Olsen, Kevin and Ann Sasse, Annette Murphy, Jan Solomon and Rod MacLean. The Changi artefacts will be used to form part of a symbolic representation of the former World War II prisoner of war camp. The concrete wall section will be placed in a memorial garden and feature a plaque commemorating all of the 15,000 Australian soldiers incarcerated at the prison. As I mentioned, some 33 of those prisoners came from Goulburn and each will be named on the plaque.

This important project could not have come to fruition without the cooperation of a number of individuals and organisations, and I want to express my appreciation today for the tireless effort put in by the Goulburn Mulwaree Council, the museum’s executive and friends, the local returned service personnel, the Navy, DFAT and the Singapore Embassy in Canberra. It is a truism that unity is strength, but this is genuinely a cooperative achievement and a reminder of how much we can actually do when we pool our resources—and Goulburn is very good at doing that.

At least three Changi survivors are known to live in Goulburn: Frank Chattaway, Les Martin and David Thompson. A fourth, Dr Alan Hazelton, who served with Weary Dunlop, lived in Goulburn for many years until he retired to Canberra last year. Dr Hazelton has been invited by the foreign minister to the official opening in April, and I hope his health will allow him to attend. Like so many old diggers, Dr Hazelton was always reluctant to speak of his wartime experiences, but the persistent curiosity of his much-loved eldest grandchild eventually prompted him to revisit old memories. The result is a document entitled Correspondence with my grand-daughter concerning my experiences in World War II—a piece of personal history that is moving and inspirational, both in the stories it tells and in the dignity and honesty of the telling.

The Changi exhibition will be open to the public from 9 April, the beginning of the school holidays, and I commend it to anyone committed to the preservation of our history. I again commend the friends of the Goulburn War Memorial and Museum for their tireless efforts in ensuring that these memories are kept intact.

Senator Mackay —Madam Acting Deputy President, I would like to raise a point of order in relation to some comments made—at the end of what I thought was a very good speech—by Senator Barnett with respect to Mr Stanhope and the ACT legislative assembly. I wish to draw your attention to standing order 193(3), and I ask that the Hansard be reviewed with respect to that standing order to see whether Senator Barnett was in fact in order. I think he was out of order but I did not want to interrupt the speech at the time.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Knowles)—Thank you, Senator Mackay. I will refer the matter to the President.