Centenary of Anzac in Scullin electorate speech in Parliament

Recently I had the privilege of attending several Centenary of Anzac commemorations in my electorate. I spoke earlier this year about the wonderful work done by many volunteers across the community as part of the Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program, noting that over these 100 years Australia—and Melbourne's northern suburbs—changed dramatically. At the commemorations I have been impressed and indeed heartened by the involvement of new generations of Australians, in terms of age and in terms of the places they have arrived from.

The electorate of Scullin, like that of Calwell, is very diverse and the Anzac commemorations have reflected this. The largest event I attended was the Diamond Creek combined schools commemoration, which had over 2,000 schoolchildren in attendance. The participating schools were Diamond Creek East Primary School, Diamond Creek Primary School, Diamond Valley College, Sacred Heart Primary School and Wattle Glen Primary School. The involvement and the engagement of the students was deeply affecting. It was clear to me and all present how much the commemoration meant to them.

I later—inexpertly—turned the sod at a Lone Pine planting ceremony at the Diamond Creek East Primary School oval. I understand that this tree was an official memorial Lone Pine tree seeded from specimens taken from Gallipoli. This was a great privilege. That the school went to such effort to secure the tree is an indication of their commitment to commemorating the Anzac spirit. I pay tribute to Denise Power and Shane Nelson from Diamond Creek East Primary School for their efforts in putting this event together, as well as the respective school principals—Rob Rostolis, Helen Micallef, Greg Williams, Jim O'Sullivan and Gerard Fay. It is testament to these schools and their staff that they can work so well together to literally sing from the same song sheet to commemorate this occasion.

I also attended an Anzac ceremony at Watsonia North Primary School. Once again, this was a student led commemoration. The students conducted themselves with a solemnity and gravitas far beyond their years. I pay tribute to them and to their principal, Tina King, for her role in putting this whole-of-school ceremony together. Other schools, right across the electorate, including Yarrambat Primary School, Epping Views Primary School and St Luke's in Lalor, also invited me to engage with students. I particularly remember a Q&A session at St Luke's, a school where, I was told, none of the students had an ancestral link to anyone involved in Anzac. Yet there was a real engagement with the commemorative spirit and a sense of the journey that Melbourne's north, as well as Australia, has undertaken over these hundred years.

On Anzac Day itself I had the honour of participating in the dawn service at the Epping RSL and later that morning I attended the service held by the Diamond Creek-Doreen sub-branch of the RSL. Melbourne's bracing weather did nothing to chill the passion of those present at either of these events. I want to thank the president of the Epping RSL, Herb Williams, and the president of the Diamond Creek-Doreen sub-branch, John Langford, who, all on their own time, perform tirelessly in these important roles—a particular effort having obviously been required over the past year.

I would like to make one final point on these commemorations about something that was in evidence at the Epping branch commemoration. There was a tremendous spirit of reconciliation and inclusiveness between former foes, and right across our communities, which resonated and made a lasting impression on me and, I believe, all the thousands attending that service. This spirit of reconciliation and inclusiveness is, I believe, the best way to maintain and commemorate the shared sacrifice made by so many during the First World War. It was a collective sacrifice and so we should remember it in the same spirit. Lest we forget.


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