Premier’s Speech to the Anzac Spirit School Prize Winners

Premier of South Australia

Speech to the Anzac Spirit School Prize Winners

Delivered in the RSL SA Memorial Hall on 27 July 2018

Welcome to the 2018 Premier’s Anzac Spirit School Prize students and teachers, parents, Bronson Horan (RSL SA President), special guests, Department for Education personnel involved in the management of the prize and staff from the Catholic Education Office and the Association of Independent Schools of South Australia.

Today I am pleased to meet the 15 students who have been successful in the 2018 Premier’s Anzac Spirit School Prize research competition and as a result are off to Vietnam for a study tour in October this year. I appreciate the opportunity to hear from them about the learning they have experienced in doing the research and telling the story of their World War 1 soldier or nurse.

The Premier’s Anzac Spirit School Prize was initiated in 2007 by the South Australian Government with the goal to promote historical education in South Australian schools through the encouragement of student research into the stories of South Australian men and women in global conflicts during the 20th

The focus during the 11 years of the research competition has been World War 1 and considering that we are still in the centenary commemoration period of this event, the prize has been important in supporting historical understanding and commemoration of that cataclysmic and significant time in our history.

Since 2008, the 125 recipients of the prize have travelled to London, France, Belgium, Singapore, South Korea, Gallipoli and Vietnam to further research the involvement of South Australians in 20th Century global conflicts.

I have been told that these study tours have been a life changing experience for many and an invaluable learning opportunity for students. It is not only about the trip that the awardees are fortunate to experience but also about their role upon returning. The expectation is that they communicate with their school, local community and the South Australian community to share what they have learnt about the sacrifices of South Australians during times of war in the places they have visited. Such sharing and public speaking has been undertaken by the students after the trip and over the years the students have been very active in spreading the historical and commemoration message.

We will soon see proof of their impressive work in this area when the students from last year address us and share their perceptions of what they have learnt and gained from being involved in the Premier’s Anzac Spirit School Prize. I look forward to hear from the students to further develop my understanding of the value of the Premier’s Anzac Spirit School Prize for students, teachers, schools and the broader community in South Australia.

Beyond the outstanding work of the awardees there are thousands of other students across our state who have benefited from this initiative. It is estimated that over 6000 students have prepared entries for the prize since 2007 and of these 750 have been submitted for judging as the best three research assignments from their school.

Interestingly, in 2018 we have seen a significant increase in the participation of schools and students in this cross-sector initiative. Across the state there was a threefold increase in student entries and a 100% increase in the number of schools participating in the prize.

Whilst this increase in the reach and participation of the prize in 2018 may reflect the opportunity afforded to schools to integrate the research competition into their Year 9 Australian Curriculum: History program, it is more likely that the increase comes from a general upwelling of interest in the study and commemoration of the sacrifices of those in the past during times of war. I have observed the large number of young people attending Dawn Services and Youth Vigils over recent years – a clear indicator that young people are connecting with the stories of the soldiers and nurses who sacrificed so much in the service of their country in the past, and indeed today.

The Premier’s Anzac Spirit School Prize is very much about storytelling and I recommend you to visit the Veterans SA site to read the wonderful entries from past Premier’s Anzac Spirit School Prize students. They are unique stories showing outstanding research by students. An important aspect of the competition is for students to use primary sources – letters, artefacts, photographs and oral histories. To this end, many of the students show amazing initiative by contacting families they don’t even know because they have seen a name on a local memorial or on the Virtual War Memorial site. I understand that one of this year’s students travelled all the way to Tumby Bay from Adelaide to conduct an interview for their research assignment. These are not ordinary classroom assignments and it should be noted that many of the students actually do the research off their own back, out of interest and passion for history. This is particularly true for the Year 10 students who receive no school assessment recognition because World War 1 is not part of the Year 10 history curriculum.

The entries for the 2018 awardees will be posted on the Veterans SA site by the end of the month. These include the story of Raymond Runga by Lucy Smith, Lloyd Mahoney by Kelly Parkin, Horace Cadd by Koby Poulton, Ethel Davidson by Holly Wallman, George Doddridge by Abby Walker and Arthur Cuthbertson by Archer Lowman, to name just a few of the over a hundred entries submitted for judging in 2018. Thankfully, these will now be more than just names on a memorial as a result of the research of this year’s Premier’s Anzac Spirit School Prize awardees.

The sadness of such stories was beautifully described by the French Prime Minister on Anzac Day on the 25th of April in his speech at Villers-Bretonneux, when he said that for the young Australians who died on the Western, the earth of France was the “final confidante of a thought or a word intended for a loved one from the other side of the world. Loved ones who would only learn the sad news several months later.”

Only by engaging with letters, photographs, original documents and families associated with the soldiers and nurses of World War 1 can students even come close to understand what they must have gone through and how those who did return must have suffered and struggled to re-establish their life’s. This is what the Premier’s Anzac Spirit School Prize research competition aims to do – to make history come alive and engage our students at an empathetic level with the stories through original sources.

I recommend these pieces of storytelling to you and I commend the 2018 Premier’s Anzac Spirit School Prize awardees for their outstanding work.

Finally, I am pleased to announce that the Premier’s ANZAC Spirit School Prize has been funded into the future by the government and that on November 11, 2018 – Remembrance Day (Armistice Day) details of the 2018 competition will be released. I look forward to the continued involvement of the RSL-SA, schools across the sectors and the South Australian community in this important initiative to promote the objectives of the prize as stated in 2007 – to understand, connect with and maintain the ANZAC spirit.