Students pay tribute

With COVID-19 restrictions forcing the cancellation of Anzac Day marches and remembrance ceremonies, schools across the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle were creative in acknowledging the sacrifice of those who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations.

Students were encouraged to stand at the end of their driveways, on their balconies, or in their loungerooms at 5.30am on Saturday 25 April and to watch the broadcast of the Dawn Service.  

Diocesan schools still joined their local communities to reflect on the sacrifice of our Anzacs but many of the activities undertaken this year were more “homely”. They included baking Anzac biscuits, doing Anzac Day crafts, and singing and playing Anzac-appropriate music such as The Last PostAdvance Australia Fair and Waltzing Matilda

Schools were also creative on social media, and visible ways in which students showed their respect included sharing medal-wearing and military uniform photos.

In Muswellbrook, St James’ Primary School Principal Aaron Moon encouraged students, their families and staff to supply a photo with messages such as “Lest We Forget”, “We will remember them” and “ANZAC Day 2020”. Mr Moon then compiled these into a video for the school and community Facebook pages.

Mr Moon said it was important to encourage students on school holidays to commemorate Anzac Day. “Our nation has grown up on the Anzac tradition,” he said. “The qualities of mateship, endurance, courage and good humour that were developed on the battlegrounds in World War 1 are now ingrained in everyday life. We must be eternally for grateful for this.”

Commemorating Anzac Day also reflects the school’s mission.

St James' vision states that to be successful learners we must be informed and engaged global citizens,” Mr Moon said. “Through identifying and commemorating Anzac Day, our aim is that our students will develop an understanding of the importance of human life and the importance of peace.”

At St Patrick’s Primary School, Lochinvar, an installation at the school’s entrance created a visible statement. The installation incorporated poppies handmade by St Patrick’s students. When they were brought together, the installation became one larger-than-life poppy that stood as a sign of respect. School principal Jacqueline Wilkinson says it is a visual reminder and source of inspiration and reflection for all those who pass by the school on the New England Highway.

Year 6 leaders at Holy Family Primary School, Merewether Beach, created a video to share with their community on Facebook. The video captured the student leaders performing wreath-laying, The Ode, The Last Post and a minute's silence, allowing those at home to join them in paying respect to all servicemen and women past and present.

Leading up to Anzac Day, staff and student leaders from Holy Name Primary School, Forster shared instructional videos on the school’s social media sites, demonstrating the ways their school community could create red poppies, paint beautiful Anzac themed artworks and bake delicious Anzac biscuits. 

Holy Name Coordinator, Simone Maloney says staff aim to enrich students’ understanding and appreciation of Australia's wartime history and the impact it has had on many generations of Australian families.

“Most importantly, we try and nurture a sense of gratitude and respect for our servicemen and women, praying particularly for those who have given their lives in active service,” Ms Maloney said.

The school’s captains, Jack Thacker and Lylah Darcy, accompanied principal Brooke Stephens and Parish Priest Greg Barker to the Tuncurry War Memorial in Lone Pine Park to lay an Anzac wreath.

Meanwhile their classmate and fellow leader, Riley Paine, marked the significance of the day with family.

“I am a school leader and I was looking forward to leading my school in the Anzac Day March,” Riley said. “Instead, I got up early with my family and listened to the Dawn Service on the radio. Mum then told us the story of our great grandpop who was in World War II and was shot in the leg on the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea and carried to safety by the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels. I understand my great grandpop was a hero and that is why I can do all the things I like today.”

Another Holy Name student, Artemisia Laurie, painted six poppy flowers for her family’s letter box. “We picked rosemary for remembrance,” she said. “Many of my relatives, especially from Gloucester, were Anzacs. I like to honour our soldiers because I love my country we live in today.”

St Joseph’s Primary School, Taree commemorated Anzac Day with a post attached to the school’s Compass site, Facebook page, and website. It also posted the hashtag #LightUpThe Dawn on all digital platforms. Students also made a PowerPoint presentation and took a photo outside the school’s Anzac display, which also included poppies handmade by students.

Leaders from St John Vianney Primary School, Morisset kept alive the tradition of visiting Cooranbong Cemetery to honour returned servicemen and women who have now passed. On Anzac morning, the leaders and their families visited three gravesites and placed a flag, said a prayer and reflected on the sacrifice made many years ago. The flag was left flying high for the day so passers-by could also remember and honour the fallen.

St John Vianney Principal Simon Devlin says part of the school’s mission is to continue to grow and develop community. “Staying connected with the community is important during this time, commemorating Anzac Day allows us to do this whilst also showing respect to the returned serviceman who have passed on,” he said.

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