Standing up for Canberra

Private Members Motion: Remembrance Day

I would like to begin by commending and thanking the Member for Forrest for this motion, because as she said this year, 2018, marks the centenary of the end of the First World War, which we commemorated right throughout the nation in small towns, in country towns, at Norfolk Island and here in our nation's capital on 11 November. So thank you to the Member for Forrest.

To help local communities commemorate this important date in our history, in the world's history and Australia's history, the Department of Veterans' Affairs offered the Armistice Centenary Grants Program for each electorate.

In my electorate we had five successful applicants, one of which was the Minders of Tuggeranong Homestead or MOTH. MOTH secured funds to develop the Soldier Settlers of Tuggeranong, a photographic exhibition. And I was honoured to formally open that exhibition at the Lanyon homestead in October.

The exhibition told the stories of eight men who returned from the war and took up soldier settler’s blocks at Tuggeranong on land that had formerly been owned by the Cunningham family.

The eight men who received land were Jack Cregan, George McInnes, Eric McMurtrie, Gerald O'Hanlon, Alec Powell, Nathaniel Smith, Darcy Thompson and Robert Dyson.

We were honoured to be joined by the families of Darcy Thompson and Nathaniel Smith at the opening.

This remarkable exhibition revealed their struggles with debt, with drought, with the rabbit plague and with uncertain markets, all while living with the legacy of their war service.

I want to commend MOTH and in particular the chair, Jenny Horsfield, for bringing these stories to life and I encourage anyone who is around Canberra to go and visit that exhibition at the Tuggeranong Homestead.

On Remembrance Day, I had the great honour of representing The Speaker at the National Ceremony and attended the beautiful service held by the French Embassy and, in the evening, I attended the Jewish commemoration service at the Jewish Centre here in Forrest.

Despite its size, the Canberra Jewish community is strong and vibrant and makes a significant contribution to Canberra, and I hope it continues to flourish in the future. Despite its size, the Australian Jewish community has also made a significant contribution to Australia's defence with its participation in many conflicts since the Boer War.

There was a strong but solid Australian Jewish presence in the Boer War, including Major Walter 'Karri' Davis, who endured two years as a prisoner of war; Myer Blashki; Louis Electorate Phillips; Alfred Saunders, who was the son of Melbourne Rabbi Reverend Moses Saunders; and two sons of Ballarat's Rabbi Reverend Israel Member Goldreich.

Jewish women also volunteered to tend the sick and the wounded including Sister Rose Shappere, who was the only Australian nurse who went through the entire siege of Ladysmith.

Her experiences of organising neutral hospitals to tend to both English and Boer fighters, her train being shelled by the Boers and nursing in a camp filled with 12,000 sick and wounded people led to her being mentioned many times in despatches and to her receiving the Royal Red Cross honour along with another medal from the king.

In the First World War, it is estimated 2,304 Jewish males enlisted in the AIF, about 13 percent of the Australian Jewish community at the time. Of these enlisted men, 300 made the ultimate sacrifice and more than 100 earned military honours or were mentioned in despatches.

Australian Jewish personnel were also conspicuous during the Second World War when 4,000 enlisted in the various services. It is estimated that 200 died in action, 40 were decorated for gallantry and 30 more were mentioned in despatches. Sister Rae Reuben was the youngest to enlist in the AIF at the age of 24.

Although there were so many Jewish nurses who served with distinction, I want to highlight her. She worked in Egypt before being transferred to Marseille in France and was moved up to just behind the firing line on the Somme, where she fell victim to a gas attack. It affected her health for the rest of her life and she died at 45.

In the gardens of the Australian War Memorial, a sea of handmade red poppies pay tribute to Australians who made the ultimate sacrifice in the First World War. More than 330,000 Australians served overseas in the four years of the war and 62,000 died.

On Remembrance Day we pause to commemorate 100 years since the guns fell silent on the Western Front, 100 years since the Armistice was signed ending the First World War, the war that was supposed to end all wars but didn't. We paused on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month to reflect and to remember those who died or suffered for Australia's cause in all world wars and armed conflicts.

We remember the bravery, honour and sacrifice of all those who served and those who followed.

Lest we forget.