Lake Macquarie Anzac Day ceremonies

17th May 2018

Mr GREG PIPER ( Lake Macquarie ) ( 19:51 ): The eleventh day of the eleventh month this year will mark 100 years since the guns fell silent on the First World War. It was known as "the war to end all wars", which, sadly, it was not, but it gave rise to what we now know as the spirit of the Anzacs. It was a moment in our history that defined what our country would be, and who we could be. Today we still honour a wonderful, yet sombre, tradition. Three weeks ago, like many in this House if not all, I attended a number of Anzac Day ceremonies in my electorate. Thousands gathered, as they have every year, to honour and remember all the men and women who served, fought and died in defence of this great country, and of course those who continue to do so.

In Lake Macquarie thousands are drawn to the many dawn services, marches and ceremonies held by the numerous communities throughout the area. These close-knit communities often hold histories that have ensured a deep connection with Australia's wartime efforts. I have spoken previously about the wartime exploits of the Catalina flying boats, and the role that Rathmines and Lake Macquarie fulfilled as the site of the largest seaplane base in the Southern Hemisphere during World War II. Many of the local residents still have direct family links to those who served at Rathmines during the war, and appreciate a resurgence in the interest in the history surrounding this base. During World War II the Royal Australian Air Force used 168 Catalinas extensively. Many regard their role in Australia's wartime efforts as being as important as were the legendary Spitfires to the defence of England.

Officially, 320 lives were lost in Catalina flying boat operations, which included long-range bombing missions, reconnaissance patrols, mine laying as far away as the Chinese coast, rescue operations and coast watch support. Catalinas were active in the Battle of the Coral Sea, which was marked last year with seventy?fifth anniversary commemorations. Even at the end of World War II, the Catalina crews fulfilled delicate missions to fly home the men and women who had suffered as prisoners of war.

For better or for worse, the Rathmines base is our direct link to one of history's most significant events. A magnificent war memorial stands adjacent to the former base at Rathmines and this year I had the honour of once again joining many people at the memorial for the Anzac Day service. The base is widely regarded as the spiritual home of 11 Squadron, which is now based at Edinburgh in South Australia. I note that 75 years ago 11 crew aboard 11 Squadron's Catalina A24-25 were killed when their aircraft crashed in waters off Cairns while on anti-submarine missions.

Number 11 Squadron now flies the P-8 Poseidon aircraft which made two fabulous flyovers during this year's Anzac Day service. The squadron maintains an important relationship with the Rathmines community and always sends representatives to the annual services. Their attendance is greatly appreciated. I also appreciate the work carried out by Rathmines Catalina Memorial Park Association, which has long?held plans for a memorial museum to be built at the site. Members are involved in the expensive and labour-intensive restoration of a PBY?5A Catalina, which they hope will one day be housed there.

I am very pleased and proud that small communities throughout Lake Macquarie come together each Anzac Day in the way that they do. At Wangi Wangi, the spirit also remains very strong. Wangi Wangi, which is located to the south of Rathmines, is home to the remnants of World War II gun emplacements that were used to protect the base at Rathmines. The Anzac Day parade at Wangi Wangi is like no other and has developed a tradition of its own. Each year more than 60 historic World War II vehicles join the parade along Dobell Drive to the RSL club. The collection, including tanks, gun carriers and even an amphibious Jeep, is thought to be the biggest private collection of such vehicles in the world. Anzac Day services are also hosted at Morisset, Toronto, Cardiff, Speers Point and Teralba and all are well attended.

After 100 years, I am so pleased and very proud that our community continues to honour the sacrifices of our original Anzacs. This anniversary is an important milestone that will again be observed throughout my electorate of Lake Macquarie. As the years go by, our fascination with the Anzac story appears to grow. Perhaps it is because we have so much to learn from those original Anzacs—their selflessness, camaraderie and dedication. They cannot have known that their gallantry and deeds would become part of a national legend and that they would be held in such high regard 100 years later. For that we thank them, and I thank the many thousands of people in Lake Macquarie and around New South Wales and Australia who continue to honour and remember them. Lest we forget.

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