Standing up for Canberra

Centenary of ANZAC

It is a great honour to be able to speak today on this commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of the Gallipoli landing. I say that because the response by the Canberra community to Anzac Day and its centenary has been quite extraordinary.

This year's dawn service drew 120,000 people to the War Memorial and Anzac Parade. I was there at the dawn service and it was quite extraordinary. Canberra has a population of 380,000, and the capital region has between 500,000 and 600,000. A large proportion of those who gathered at the dawn service on Anzac Day were Canberrans. I thank and commend Canberrans for remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who were wounded and those who were broken-hearted by the loss of loved ones during the war, and for continuing to remember the sacrifice made by our ADF, who currently serve our nation so well. We remember their continued service and acknowledge that many of those who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are injured in physical ways and in their mental health. We need to be there to support them.

It was an extraordinary turnout by Canberrans on that very cool morning. It was just wonderful to see, as the sun came up, people of all ages and backgrounds. There were children and babies, and parents wanting to bring their little babies along to commemorate the day and to also acknowledge their relatives. There were little children from schools across Canberra, throughout the region and throughout the country. Quite often there were people on their own, as I was—my husband was down the road in different spot—who were there wanting to pay quiet tribute and to acknowledge those who had served who made the ultimate sacrifice and to remember all those involved in the First World War.

The dawn service was followed by a range of services throughout the nation. We had the national ceremony here in Canberra, and once again the turnout for that was quite extraordinary. It was not just among the people who came to watch where there were record numbers. We also had a record turnout in terms of participants. There were people from the local RSLs here in Canberra—the Woden RSL and RSLs right across the city. We had the cadets out from HMAS Harman—Navy, Army and Air Force cadets—who were there marching proudly. We had a range of groups, from peacekeepers to police force members to civilians, who have been involved in Afghanistan. We had Vietnam veterans. We had representation from humanitarian as well as the conflict—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order! The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour and the honourable member will have leave to continue her remarks at that time.

Ms BRODTMANN (Canberra) (16:21): This afternoon, when I left off this speech, I was thanking and commending the Canberra population for their incredible turnout on Anzac Day. As I mentioned at that stage, 120,000 people from around the country, but primarily from Canberra and the capital region, came to attend the dawn service. As I said at that time, the population of Canberra is 380,000 and the region is between 500,000 and 600,000. So that was a significant proportion of the population. There were people of all ages. It was just extraordinary to see so many people at that dawn service watching the sun come up, acknowledging and remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice, remembering relatives who served and remembering, acknowledging and thanking those who are currently serving. I thank and commend those Canberrans who turned out on that day in such record numbers. It was quite extraordinary. As I said at that time, record numbers also attended the national ceremony, and record participants from all age groups from cadets right through to vets. It was a wonderful ceremony.

I am incredibly proud of the way so many Canberrans commemorated Anzac Day here. The Australian Garden History Society is erecting a monument in Weston Park to the young men of early Canberra who served in the First World War. Their service is personified by Private Malcolm McIntosh Southwell, who was a forester based at what is now the Yarralumla Nursery and who was killed in action near Flers in France on 5 November 1916. At Fetherston Gardens in Weston volunteers constructed a memorial garden using plants of significance such as the Gallipoli Rose, poppies, cornflowers and a lone pine.

In Chisholm, the existing memorial on Simpsons Hill is being lovingly upgraded by the local community to become the centre of local commemorations. A new flagpole, garden beds and memorial plaques designed by local schoolchildren have brought the memorial to life. These are just some of the many local commemorations that ensured that Anzac Day continues to have meaning and relevance to our Canberra community for the next hundred years.

As you would be aware, Mr Deputy Speaker Scott—although I do not know whether you partook of these activities—thanks to the fantastic work that has been done by Dr Brendan Nelson, the Director of the Australian War Memorial, and by the Archives and so many other national institutions here in our nation's great capital, many Australians have been using the commemoration of the Anzac Centenary to connect with relatives who served during those four years. It has been extraordinary to see the work that has been done by the National Archives as well as by many other national institutions, where you can type in your relative's name and trace their history. You can sometimes see letters; you can see the enlistment papers; in the case of the person I am about to talk about, you can see the dreadful notification of death. Through that, too, you get a sense of these individuals and the fact that they were individuals who had dreams and hopes and loves and passions, and who often left young wives and babies behind.

In our case, my husband, Chris Uhlmann, and I spent quite a lot of time researching Sergeant Christopher Ernest Uhlmann, who was killed in action in Belgium on 21 July 1917. On that day, 'this splendid stamp of a man' was wounded by a shell in the trenches near Zillebeke Lake in Belgium. The brigade doctor, Captain Aspinall, Bomber Barrs and Private Salisbury went to his assistance, but another shell fell almost in the same spot and killed the four. Christopher Ernest Uhlmann was just 26 and he was married to Florence May Uhlmann.

After attending the dawn service, the mass at Saint Christopher's and the national Anzac Day ceremony, Chris and I honoured 'Ernie', as he was called, by placing a poppy against his name on panel 11 at the War Memorial. We joined with so many thousands of Australians not just at the War Memorial but also at memorials and commemorative shrines in each town right across the country, in paying tribute to the memories and legacy of lost loved ones.

I want to take this opportunity of again thanking Dr Brendan Nelson, because after Chris and I placed that poppy on Ernie's plaque at the War Memorial, the following night we also went at 9.17 pm, when his name was lit up on the War Memorial. Over the next four years his name will be lit up three times. I encourage all Australians to, first off, get a sense of history of those who lost their lives, the relatives who lost their lives or who were wounded during the First World War, but also to take the time to find out when they will be memorialised at the War Memorial, with their name lit up, so that all across the capital region and here in the capital we can remember them. Lest we forget.

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