Anzac: more than a day

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30 April 2021

Anzac Day is an important celebration in every school, but it is even more significant when your school is located only 10 km from Puckapunyal army base.

St Mary’s College, Seymour, currently has 25 students from 17 Defence families between Foundation and Year 10. In the days leading up to Anzac Day, Defence students, supported by the college’s Defence School Mentor, held a St Mary’s Anzac stall selling badges, wristbands and keyrings at the entrance to the college to raise funds for the RSL. The college’s Art department were also keen to offer their skills to create a display for the community that commemorated those killed in war, and honoured returned and serving servicemen and women. Seventeen wooden poppies were created to represent each Defence family enrolled at the school. The poppies were displayed with two soldier silhouettes and additional purple poppies along the High Street fence. The Defence students of St Mary’s were involved in painting the artwork in preparation for it to be displayed.

Year 10 college leader, Ruby Cook, approached staff with the idea of making lanterns from recycled milk bottles to illuminate the fence overnight leading into the dawn of Anzac Day. All students from Foundation to Year 10 were invited to make lanterns as a lunchtime activity over two days.

The college held a liturgy led by the Year 9 History class and involving two parent guest speakers linked to the armed forces, Major Matthew Sullivan and Warrant Officer Class 2 Robert Archer. Major Sullivan spoke to students about what Anzac Day means to him and read the ode. Warrant Officer Archer laid a wreath with his daughter, and all classes were invited to create a wreath and lay it during the liturgy. Following the liturgy, school leaders and Defence students headed to Seymour District Memorial Hospital, the location for the local Dawn Service, to place 418 small white crosses throughout the gardens with the names of deceased local serving members.

On Anzac Day itself, college leaders, accompanied by the principal and deputy principal attended various ceremonies within the community. At the Dawn Service, held at the hospital, the college captains read the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ and laid a wreath.

Qualities associated with the Anzacs such as teamwork, mateship and respect were certainly on display at St Mary’s College in the lead-up to Anzac Day, and they are some of the most important lessons that the Anzacs would hope students of today take away from their story.