It is always a privilege to serve the Boroondara community as Mayor, but some days are more special than others.
On a sunny morning on 19 April, I, along with Cr Steve Hurd, John Pesutto MP Member for Hawthorn, former Victorian premier The Hon Ted Ballieu, Paul Dipnall, Chairman of Bomber Command Commemorative Association Victoria (BCCAV) and Jan Dimmick also from BCCAV and a joint recipient of the Boroondara Citizen of the Year Award 2017, and special guests gathered in St James Park in Hawthorn to plant a Lone Pine tree.
This small tree was grown from a seed gathered from the Gallipoli Peninsula by students of Carey Baptist Grammar School and given as a gift to the people of Boroondara as a living symbol of our deep connection to that fateful shore so far away.
At the tree planting ceremony, Cr Hurd spoke movingly of our local connection to Lone Pine via a young soldier from Hawthorn, possibly the youngest Australian to serve in the Gallipoli campaign. Private James Martin enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) aged just 14 years and 3 months – having lied about his age so he could do his part for Australia.
Along with the rest of his battalion, he took up his position along the frontline at Gallipoli on 7 September 1915. In only a matter of weeks, through a combination of enemy action and the hard physical labour and extreme privations of war, a company of 1,000 men (and boys) had been reduced to around 650 who were still fighting fit.
In late October of the same year, Private Martin, now seriously ill, was evacuated and died aboard a ship on route to a hospital. He was still three months shy of his fifteenth birthday.
Cr Hurd also spoke of how he is still moved to tears by the words of Mustafa Ataturk, a Turkish military commander at Gallipoli and the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey, when he wrote (in part):
“You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”
In planting this Lone Pine tree, our connection to that faraway place and time is strengthened once more. As is our commitment to honouring those who fell in service of their country, and those who returned with wounds seen and unseen to a grieving and grateful nation.
On behalf of the Boroondara community, I want to extend our sincere thanks to the students and staff at Carey Baptist Grammar School and to the wonderful volunteers from the Bomber Command Commemorative Association (Victoria) who made this fitting tribute possible.
Cr Phillip Healey