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This year’s program

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​The recipients of the 2023 Premier's Anzac Prize undertake the journey of a lifetime through undertaking fundraising projects to support returned veterans, researching Australian service persons to commemorate, participate in a Young historians workshop, engaging with local primary schools to share their knowledge, and tour significant memorial sites in London and the Western Front battlefields in Belgium and France.

Follow their journey through images and diary entries as the students and their teacher chaperones embark on a life-changing experience.

The recipients of the 2023 Premier's Anzac Prize 
 

Recipients of the 2023 Premier's Anzac Prize

Anastasia Maher – Emerald State High School

Claire Gattera – St Monica's College (Cairns)

Dashiell Solomon – Ambrose Treacy College (Indooroopilly)

Hilman Pranowo – Pimlico State High School

Nooria Ahmadi – Forest Lake State High School

Sarah Ellis – St Joseph's College (Toowoomba)

Thomas Eccleston – Ambrose Treacy College (Indooroopilly)

Tom Filipich – Pimlico State High School

Chaperones

Alison Marsh – Marsden State High School

Alexandra Cashin – Saint Mary's Catholic College (Kingaroy)


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11 January 2023: Tour briefing

Chaperones and Department of Education staff members facilitate the tour briefing including some icebreaker activities, project activity explanations and tour information.

12 January 2023: Young historians workshop – day 1

The students and chaperones learnt more about the stories of Australia’s service persons at the Anzac Square Memorial Galleries with the guidance of the staff. The students also went on a behind the scenes tour of the State Library and learnt research strategies from the librarians to assist them in researching their selected service persons.

12 January 2023: Young historians workshop – day 2

The students started day two of their workshop at the State Library of Queensland met with Mr Bart Mellish MP, Assistant Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Major General Stephen Day DSC AM, RSL Queensland State President, and Vicki McDonald, State Librarian and CEO of State Library of Queensland. Together they engaged in the White Gloves Experience, viewing WWI and WWII artefacts including journals, trench art and letters.

The students delved further into the stories of their selected service persons with the support of the librarians.

13 April 2023: Farewell function and departure

Diary entry by Tom Filipich and Dashiell Solomon.

With a crisp start at 6.20 in the morning, we eagerly checked out of our Brisbane hotel and swiftly devoured breakfast and made out journey to the farewell event. This farewell event was an experience that we will never forget. We received touching awards from Minister Grace Grace and Assistant Minister Bart Mellish MP as well as representatives from the RSL Queensland and the Royal Australian Army. We farewelled our parents and made our way to the airport.

14 April 2023: Arrival in London – day 1

Diary entry by Claire Gattera and Sarah Ellis.

After our 13-hour flight, we arrived at Heathrow airport and met our jovial tour guide, Jo. We continued into the heart of London and met our bus driver. In awe of the beauty and age of every building that we drove past, our tour guide explained the historical importance of them. We made a stop at the Buckingham Palace to watch the Changing of the Guard which was eye-opening. As we drove through the city, we saw many notable sites such as Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, and the Tower of London. Finally, we crossed London Bridge to arrive at our hotel in time for lunch.

15 April 2023: London – day 2

Diary Entry by Nooria Ahmadi and Anastasia Maher.

Our first stop was the Churchill War Rooms and museum, where Churchill stayed during World War II. Some highlights from here were the map room and Churchill's 'lavatory' where he would secretly phone Roosevelt.

After the Churchill War Rooms, we left for the Imperial War Museum. This was an incredible experience, with the World War I and Holocaust exhibits being particularly poignant. We then held our first commemorative service at the Animals in War Memorial in Hyde Park, laying a wreath and leaving purple poppies in remembrance. This was followed by a late lunch and explored Convent Garden shops. We then walked down to the London Eye and hopped on a ferry to travel down the Thames River, complimented by the insightful commentary from the ferry drivers.

16 April 2023: London – day 3

Diary entry by Tom Eccleston and Hilman Pranowo.

Today was the first deeply moving day of the trip.

After a short coach ride and a photo stop alongside Tower Bridge, we laid our eyes upon the magnificent H.M.S Belfast, a truly majestic warship which fired the first shots at D-Day and was used extensively during the Korean War. We held a commemoration ceremony in the Chapel of the Belfast which added to the atmosphere of the ceremony. We spent 1.5 hours exploring the ship and still did not manage to see the entirety of the nine decks of the Belfast. From the Admiral’s deck to the shell room, from the mess area and hospital to the engine room, each area of the ship was a wealth of information, expanding our nautical knowledge while entertaining us though interactive activities.

Next, we visited the stunning countryside town of Harefield where we walked through the churchyards and admired the spectacular architecture of the Church. After enjoying some of our lunch with the Australian soldiers of the Anzac Memorial in the churchyard, we commemorated some of our soldiers in a deeply moving service in front of the obelisk monument in the centre of the Anzac Memorial. The service, the beautiful Church, and the visiting the graves of Australian soldiers so far from home made the Anzac story, all of a sudden, much more real.

17 April 2023: London to Paris – day 4

Diary entry by Tom Filipich and Dashiell Solomon.

Today, the group had an early morning, leaving the hotel for the Kings Cross International train station on our way to Paris. After crossing underneath the English Channel to Charles De Gaul train station, we boarded our coach and travelled straight to the Louvre to have our first sightseeing in France.

The Louvre was an amazing experience as we roamed the halls, taking in the brilliant artworks and sculptures of various cultures.

18 April 2023: Paris – day 5

Diary entry by Thomas Eccleston and Hilman Pranowo.

Our first full day in Paris was certainly a day of adventure. We started with a bus tour around the city including a stop at the Eiffel Tower and the outside of the Louvre. Next stop was a wonderful river cruise down the River Seine where we learnt about the history of Paris and it’s many marvellous and majestic buildings and landmarks including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Notre Dame.

The afternoon was also a wealth of adventure and learning as we explored the stunning grounds of the Versailles Palace. Inside Versailles is just as beautiful as it is outside. The chapel within the Palace is as big as a full-sized church. The paintings and tapestries were beautiful and intricate, and the history of the Palace itself presented by our wonderful guide was extremely interesting. Every moment of today’s activities was exciting, entertaining, and educating.

19 April 2023: Paris to Ypres – day 6

Diary entry by Claire Gattera and Sarah Ellis.

Today, we would see the charming town of Ypres. Sadly, we had to say au revoir to the beautiful Paris. We continued onward to the Fromelles Battlefield. Along the tour, our tour guide, Pete, taught us more about World War I in 24 hours than we had learnt our entire lives. We were also able to visit our first Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery. We were once again reminded of the heartbreaking individual experiences of the war. Pete told us the story of the graves of two Australian brothers, buried beside each other by German soldiers who were likely unaware of their relationship. Their proximity was no accident. Pete speculated that they would have been buried together as they died together due to one hearing of the others injury or death and running headfirst in a desperate bid to be reunited with their brother. A third brother lived on; the only child in a family of 5.

Our bus then moved on to the beautiful Ypres. After a brief stop at our hotel, we left for the major event of the day. The official service at Menin gate. It is impossible to fully describe this experience. Any words we write are merely a pale shadow compared to the image ingrained in our minds. The Spring Sun warmed us; the cold breeze chilled. Larks flew and sung overhead. The late afternoon light lit the immense stone memorial in a glorious golden glow. The sound of bugles pierced the silence and into the innermost depths of our selves. Local children, English police officers and Tasmanian students were some of the many groups all gathered for the same purpose – to remember the fallen Anzac soldiers.

20 April 2023: Ypres – day 7

Diary entry by Nooria Ahmadi and Anastasia Maher.

This morning was our first morning in Ypres Belgium. As the coach drove, we saw landscapes of trees and agriculture, which were once battlefields.

We learnt that there were five battles of Ypres. Today we focused on the third battle, the Passchendaele, initiated on 31 July 1917. The soldiers fought during autumn when the weather was almost similar to today’s weather. This allowed us to better imagine the soldiers experience and connect with them even more.

We then visited the New Buttes British Cemetery, and discovered 50% of men who died in war and were buried, had their bodies moved to different cemeteries. We also learnt that soldiers were buried in a row and do not have individual graves due to lack of space. While we were there, we held a commemoration service to honour the sacrifice these soldiers had made.

Next, we travelled and visited the Passchendaele Museum, located in Zonnebeke. By walking underground, visiting the beds of soldiers, the kitchen and walking on the trenches, we were able to step in the soldiers’ shoes. 100 days of fighting against the mud, 100 days of danger and 100 days of death. We were able to imagine the lives of the soldiers who strived to protect each other. The trip reminded us of our safety while also imagining what life was like for those who lived under the grounds, holding onto hope for survival.

During lunch we met Johan. Johan introduced us to his collections and stories. In particular the story of the Brother in Arms and how he is still keeping the memory of what Australians did. He even had a Trooper Jones equivalent! After lunch, we walked in the Polygon Woods with a soldier identity to further form a connection between us as a younger generation and the young soldiers of World War I. Whilst we were deciphering clues through the woods, we were able to really understand the conditions experienced on the Western Front by the freezing weather.

21 April 2023: Poperinge and Ypres – day 8

Diary entry by Dashiell Solomon and Tom Filipich.

Day 8 of our life changing journey consisted of many events, starting with a visit to Hill 60. It was such a fascinating place that demonstrated the impact of war on the landscape which consisted of many craters and bunkers across the hill. We then ventured to the town of Poperinge which was an important Allied support base during the 'war to end all wars'. Whilst here, we toured through Talbot House which was known as the 'everyman's club'. This is because it was used to help entertain enlisted men of the war. Here, men could eat, play billiards, watch small performance acts and even play the piano with their mates. Australians, New Zealanders and even Canadians were able to stay here. We were told that we could honour these soldiers by having fun just as they did, so in parallel to the experiences of the soldiers who visited Talbot House, Dash and Anastasia performed songs including 'Waltzing Matilda' on the piano. We left Poperinge to go to Lijssenthoek Cemetery which is one of the largest Commonwealth war cemeteries in the world which is the resting place for Australian, New Zealand and British soldiers. Finally, we returned to Ypres to visit the In Flanders Fields Museum, consisting of very interesting artifacts and images of World. Today truly went beyond our expectations, we met amazing people and learnt more than any textbook could show.

22 April 2023: Bruges and Cobber's Night – day 9

Diary entry by Claire Gattera and Sarah Ellis.

Our first stop of the day was a cruise down a beautiful river to enjoy the town. Afterwards, we had an opportunity to explore the town with its cobblestone alleys and beautiful bridges lined with luscious leafy greenery.

After leaving Bruges, we visited a German cemetery. Interestingly, the soldiers had individual graves but shared tombstones, which was in contrast to the allied cemetery mass burials with individual tombstones. Finally, after a ceremony at Menin Gate, we said our farewells to the local shopkeepers and left for Cobbers Night, a celebration of the contribution and sacrifice Australian soldiers made for their small town in France. The much-anticipated night of dancing and singing lived up to its expectations. The night began with a meet and greet with the town’s people of Fleurbaix including the mayor. Afterwards, at the town hall, we watched the best Celtic concert of our lives. Irish dancing, English singing, French band players – a very multicultural experience. A truly unforgettable night.

23 April 2023: Ypres to the Somme – day 10

Diary entry by Thomas Eccleston and Hilman Pranowo.

Today we continued to follow in the steps of the Anzacs as we travelled across the northern French and Belgium frontlines visiting memorials and cemeteries along the way. Leaving Ypres, we visited Derry Cemetery, commemorated two of our soldiers, and learnt about the enormous undertaking by the British government to create tens of thousands of medals and memorial plaques (known colloquially as ‘death pennies’). We also stopped by an Irish cemetery where we were able to see the frontlines clearly but also understand the Irish divisions and how they contributed alongside the Australian forces.

Next up was the Bullecourt Memorial where we did a group commemoration and learnt about the conditions the soldiers lived in, what the soldiers wore and carried, and the disaster that was the battle of Bullecourt. Near the memorial we travelled to the Slouch Hat Memorial and the memorial for the tank operators during the battle of Bullecourt. Finally, after entering Amiens, we visited a stunning cathedral full of incredible artwork and stained-glass windows known as the Notre Dame (different from the Notre Dame in Paris).

24 April 2023: The Somme – day 11

Diary entry by Nooria Ahmadi and Anastasia Maher.

As the days pass and we get closer to leaving Europe, we reflect on the start of our journey and how far we’ve come. We arrived with eagerness to learn and we will leave with a much more comprehensive knowledge, experience and life lessons. After a warm breakfast, we caught the bus and drove to the Adelaide Cemetery. This was a battlefield and cemetery located near the beautiful landscape in which the unknown soldier was exhumed and returned to Canberra in 1993. After visiting the cemetery, we travelled to the Victoria School. This school is an integral part of Australia’s history. There was also a museum which highlighted the journey of many Australian soldiers, their shelters and even their reaction to receiving a letter from home. After purchasing some souvenirs, we all walked onto the school ground where we saw the remarkable statement 'do not forget Australia'. After being moved by everything around us that reminded us of our home country, we caught the bus to experience the coolest underground tour. We walked about 1km in the underground network and viewed the signatures from soldiers in World War I. The temperature was a cool 9 degrees underground. The most humbling part of this journey thus far is that each day we learn more and more about soldiers and their stories who gave it all to fight for our country. Knowing that these individuals were around our age when they decided to fight for freedom, has inspired us. We also connect with these stories and from these stories, learn from one another.

We returned early to the hotel, preparing for the next day, Anzac Day.

25 April 2023: Anzac Day – day 12

Diary entry by Anastasia Maher.

Today we started the day at the very early hour of 1.30am and prepared ourselves for a moving day of commemoration in Villers-Bretonneux. We arrived at the Australian National Memorial around 3am, underwent security checks and found our seats by 3.30am.

The dawn service was incredible. The weather, however, was cold, windy and rainy, but this experience deepened our understanding of the conditions endured by soldiers on the Western Front. It was very moving to see Australian servicemen and women so far from home hosting the service in conjunction with the French Government. Some highlights of this service were the Catafalque party, which was the best I'd ever seen, and the playing of the bugle at the top of the Memorial's tower.

A special part of today's commemorations to me was our breakfast at La Hamel later in the day. My fellow recipients and I were approached by a group of young French girls in primary school who decorated a paper plate for us in celebration of Anzac Day. The young girls, Charlie, Luna and Alice, also gave us their addresses so that we could stay in contact. Later, these same girls as well as the townspeople of La Hamel, sang with us Advance Australia Fair at another commemorative ceremony. It was extremely heart-warming to see people with such a strong connection to Australia while being far from Australia, and the sense of mateship shown in those moments was truly reflective of the Anzac spirit.

26 April 2023: The Somme – day 13

Diary entry by Tom Filipich.

We returned to the National Memorial but unlike yesterday morning, the Memorial was almost empty. We walked between the rows of headstones in the cemetery, passing between the French and Australian flags to reach the main section of the Memorial.

A moving individual commemoration was conducted at the base of the Memorial, followed by a group commemoration next to the wreathes laid at yesterday’s service. We remembered the fallen and missing Australians of the battle of the Somme, one of the greatest losses of life during the war.

We then climbed the many stairs to the top of the Memorial Tower. It offered stunning views of not just the Memorial but of many of the surrounding battlefields. We then descended the tower and visited the John Monash Centre underneath the Memorial. Using our phones, we got to experience an audio-visual tour of Australia on the Western Front, from the battle of Fromelles to the brilliantly planned action at Le Hamel. To top it all off, a 3D production with lighting and smoke gave a deep insight to the terror of industrialised warfare. You could feel the thunder of the guns, and literally smell the dust and gunfire. It was an amazing experience.

After having a quick lunch at the Memorial, we headed to the Le Hamel Memorial to gain an insight into the battle masterminded by Sir John Monash that ended in just over 90 minutes. To finish the day, we visited the graves of several indigenous soldiers who fought in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), showing an often-overlooked reality of the war at Heath Cemetery.

27 April 2023: The Somme to Paris – day 14

The 27 April, marked our last day touring the Western Front as Prize recipients. We visited various significant sites including the battlefield of Mont St Quentin, Peronne, Bellenglise, the St Quentin Canal tunnel at Bellicourt and Montbrehain.

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Last updated 10 October 2023