Joanne Ryan MP
Federal Member for Lalor
Joanne Ryan MP

Anzac Centenary

I rise today to note the bipartisan support for the centennial Anzac commemoration announced by the honourable Julia Gillard on the centenary of Anzac 24 April 2012. The Australian government's Anzac Centenary Local Grants program is assisting and encouraging communities across Australia to undertake their own Anzac centenary projects that commemorate the service and sacrifice of Australian servicemen and service-women in the First World War.

I want to take a moment to thank the independent panel members in Lalor who have assessed and made recommendations on 10 projects from the community: the honourable Tim Pallas state member for Tarneit; Ms Margaret Campbell, a respected local historian and author; and Ms Judith Gilbert, a longtime history teacher and now secretary of the B24 Liberator restoration in Werribee. Only one has at this time received approval and it is creating much excitement. This was promptly submitted by the Little River Historical Society on the day the applications opened. It is for a World War I nurse memorial for Sister Catherine Kit McNaughton and Sister Sarah Sadie McIntosh. They were cousins, both born and raised in Little River. The memorial is to honour the role and the contribution made by local serving women during the Great War. It will be unveiled to coincide with the centenary of the departure of Sister McNaughton from Station Pier in Port Melbourne to her wartime duties on 17 July 1915.

Kit McNaughton's story will also be shared with the broader Australian public this year through Screen Australia's miniseries The Other Anzacs, launched at Parliament House last week, and the ABC documentary series, The War That Made Us, which will be launched at Parliament House tomorrow evening. On behalf of my community, I would like to thank Dr Janet Butler for her curiosity about the nurses from our region and her pursuit of family history for her research. Through that research, she found the diaries kept by Kit during her war service and wrote Kitty's War:The Remarkable Wartime Experiences of Kit McNaughton, published in 2013. Janet was awarded the New South Wales Premier's History Award for 2013 for this work.

I and many from my community attended the launch of Janet's book in 2013 at the shrine in Melbourne. This event brought together people from all over Australia, many of whom were descendants of nurses and servicemen who knew Kit from the war. Janet's research took her all over the country, talking to families about their mothers, grandmothers, aunts and great-aunts. From the diaries of Kit McNaughton, Janet traced many of the nurses who served with her and heard their stories. Through letters and diaries and stories, Janet was able to trace not just their service but their relationships and their lives after the war. Janet's work has informed the ABC documentary to be launched as part of a series tomorrow night. I also acknowledge the work of Clare Wright, our most recent recipient of the Stella Award, for her work on the documentary.

It is important to note the belated acknowledgment of the nurses of the Great War by our country. Kit McNaughton's service was mentioned in dispatches by Winston Churchill. After the war, she was awarded the Royal Red Cross First Class, a British award presented by the then Prince of Wales—who became King Edward VII—on his visit to Australia in 1920.

However, she did not receive an Australia award. In fact, she had to fight for a part-veterans pension in the later years of her life when the trials of her service tolled heavily on her health. Sadie, who never married, had to apply to the Edith Cavell fund for financial assistance in 1950. Therefore, I think it is fitting that modern Australia now looks back and acknowledges the sacrifices made by our serving nurses, the way their service changed the way they saw themselves and others and, in time, the way Australia saw itself. I look forward to Kit and Sadie having a permanent memorial in the town they grew up in, and in the region they returned to, where Kit married and raised her family. I would also note that Kit McNaughton is my grandmother.


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