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The Headstone Project

[11.36 a.m.]

Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, today I speak about The Headstone Project, the mission of which is to ensure that all our World War I veterans have their last resting places suitably marked in such a way that recognises their service. This goal may sound simple enough. Starting in Tasmania in 2011, the founding members of the Tasmanian Headstone Project discovered that there were World War I veterans buried at Cornelian Bay cemetery in Hobart without so much as a headstone or even a marker. With the help of the Millingtons Cemeteries, the team started out with a list of approximately 20 names and began researching how many more World War I veterans might be buried there and what their stories were. In large part and to date, the team has determined that many of them had served at Gallipoli, on the Western Front and in the Middle East. At this time, over 200 veterans have been identified, and with more research to be undertaken at various burial sites in Tasmania, the number may well be up to 250 by the time the project is complete. There are now various Headstone Project teams working in every state in Australia with the same common goal. With each veteran being identified, the stories that constitute the very fabric of Australia's character and involvement in World War I become more complete. The Headstone Project's research strategy is an open-source one, which allows people with some guidance to put their research and problem-solving skills to use and undertake investigations into veterans who have been discovered in order to bring their story to light. As a consequence, the research efforts of those who generously give their time and expertise to The Headstone Project are nothing short of remarkable. Their website contains a search function that, when you search for a Headstone Project veteran, returns vital information, including the person's service number, unit, dates of enlistment, return, discharge and death, as well as personal information about their family, their work before and after the war, and sources of additional information. On 26 July this year I had the privilege of attending a service of dedication of 30 headstones in Launceston. Whilst the dedication honoured those who served in various capacities during World War I, the story of the 12th Australian Infantry Battalion and those who were a part of it was included in the service information booklet. I believe that this story bears repeating here. A paragon of martial excellence, the 12th Battalion's involvement in the World War I emphasises the resilience and fortitude that we as Australians have come to think of as synonymous with our attitude towards military service. I quote -

During the period between 1914 and 1919, the 12th Battalion saw service in four continents, in the course of which it laid its honoured dead to rest in the shadow of the pyramids of Egypt, beneath the towering cliffs of Gallipoli, on the sunny shores of the Mediterranean, in rural England, in devastated Flanders, and beneath the scarlet poppies of Picardy, the flower that suggests sleep and remembrance. Those who have paid the ultimate price are not forgotten, nor those who served us alongside them. The traditions that these men set during the First World War continue to be upheld. Those who currently serve us with the Royal Tasmanian Regiment are proud to be part of the Twelfth Battalion's long history of military service, both in times of war and at peace. These men and women continue to uphold the traditions of the Twelfth Battalion, serving in many theatres around the world today.

Mr President, while the services to dedicate headstones to our World War I veterans is ostensibly a solemn event, I believe it is worth pondering the fact that even in the darkest and most horrifying of circumstances these brave servicemen endured, what remains in our hearts and in our minds is the extraordinary bravery, selflessness and courage with which they served. It is in this spirit that we should continue to honour them today so that their sacrifices were not in vain.

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