Ministerial Statements - ANZAC Centenary - 11/02/2014


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (13:02): by leave—I want to congratulate the minister on the tabling of his statement and congratulate the government on the work that they have been doing to commemorate the very significant Australian involvement in World War I generally. There are stories all around Australia, fortunately given firsthand by just a few of the children of the original Anzacs that need to be recorded. I did not see the minister's statement before he delivered it a little while ago, and I am delighted to see the work that minister and the government is planning post-2015. It brings to mind a constituent of mine, who is also a friend, whose father, Lieutenant Thomas Dwyer, was very much involved in the Western Front. I am pleased that the minister is acknowledging that, whilst Gallipoli was almost the birthplace of our nation, other elements of the fighting in World War I were particularly important to Australia and Australians. Indeed, by far the greatest casualties occurred on the Western Front. For example, Lieutenant Thomas Dwyer enlisted in March 1916; he embarked in November 1916; he was wounded at Polygon Wood in September 1917; he was then wounded again at Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918; he was wounded a third time at Corbie in June 1918. He was wounded again in the Battle of Hemal near Vaire Wood in July 1918, and as a result of that particular incident he was awarded the Military Cross. He had the honour of having that Military Cross presented to him directly by His Majesty King George V.

My friend and constituent is hoping to get to the Western Front next April, mainly because, whilst it is not the 100th anniversary of his father's activities at Polygon Wood, Villers-Bretonneux and Hemal, he fears that he may not be alive if he waits until the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Hemal, which is particularly close to him. Whilst this is an individual example that I am citing, I am sure that there are literally thousands of other cases across Australia of relatives, and indeed first descendants, of those who participated in those battles who do want to be part of the very significant commemorations of the First World War, starting next year. I was pleased to hear the minister say that there will be further commemorations for these significant battles post-2015. I want to congratulate the minister for doing that, because it is important that the minister is aware of the circumstances of my constituent and thousands of other immediate descendants and is able to do something to commemorate those very significant battles and the contributions of so many Australians, and to allow those descendants to be part of those commemorations.

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