Commemoration of the Centenary of the El Arish Soldier’s Settlement and Refurbishment of the Cenotaph
Member for Hill, Mr Shane Knuth; Member for Kennedy, Mr Bob Katter; Mayor Nolan and Mrs Nolan; Councillors; President of the El Arish Community Sports and Recreational Association, Mr Wayne Kimberley; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen; girls and boys.
I at once acknowledge the traditional owners of these lands and extend respectful greetings to Elders and emerging leaders.
Kaye and I are delighted to join you in El Arish for this important ceremony today, on just our second regional visit since COVID-19 restrictions were eased. I wholeheartedly thank the students for their stirring renditions of our National Anthem, God Save The Queen and Waltzing Matilda – what a credit you all are to this most special Queensland community.
The original El Arish in Egypt sits between the desert and the sea.
Here we are cheek-by-jowl with cane fields and rainforest.
Despite these dramatic differences, the exotic name was deliberately chosen to recall the service and sacrifice of Australians in World War One, especially the Middle East campaign.
It reminded the soldier settlers who first came here in 1920 of their contribution to the war effort and their pride in having been among the first ANZACs.
Their decision to move to Far North Queensland, to farm in the tropics often with little or no agricultural experience, cannot have been taken lightly.
Some soldiers may have seen it as promising a better future for their families. Others, perhaps living with what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, may have simply wanted a quiet life. The prospect of working among fellow veterans likely played a part too.
These ex-servicemen had already proven their toughness in the crucible of war.
Right here, in the 1920s, they showed their strength of character again by creating a successful soldier settlement through sheer hard work and gritty determination – a message that still resonates as we face a different kind of challenge.
Today we pay tribute to their service, in war and in peace, and in particular their pioneering role in this beautiful part of our State.
I thank Mr David Martin for inviting me here today. An army veteran himself, Mr Martin is the son of Francis Martin, World War One veteran, brother of three other veterans, first superintendent of the El Arish settlement, and an active member of the local community.
I extend my wholehearted thanks to the El Arish Sports and Recreation Association, local members of the RSL, to Mr Martin, the Cassowary Coast Regional Council and the Queensland Government for their roles in bringing this commemoration to fruition at the town’s refurbished cenotaph. I further thank the 2nd Cavalry Regiment Catafalque Party for their impeccable ceremonial turnout today.
Kaye and I look forward to our visit to the RSL Memorial Hall and the Diggers’ Museum, both of which also keep alive the memory of the first soldier settlers.
It is now my great honour to unveil a plaque marking the refurbishment of the cenotaph and the centenary of these brave, determined soldier settlers, keeping their memory alive for future generations.
Lest We Forget.