Hannah set for Spirit of ANZAC tour

Hannah set for Spirit of ANZAC tour

Nagle College student, Hannah Martin, will visit culturally significant war sites in Vietnam and Singapore next month as part of an overseas study tour, having been recognised as a Spirit of ANZAC Prize winner.

Open to year nine and 10 students across Victoria, the Premier’s Spirit of ANZAC Prize is an annual competition with winners receiving the opportunity to participate in study tours to sites where Australians have served in times of war and peacekeeping.

Nagle College has a strong history of being nominated for this prize, past recipients from the college including Breanna Janson (2014), Angelina Clancy (2016), Roni Corby (runner-up 2016), Fran Pini (2018) and Kelsey Cuttriss (runner-up 2018). The college’s Australia at War teacher, Julie Henley, was a chaperone in 2015. Hannah is the sixth Nagle student to be honoured with the award.

Hannah felt the Spirit of ANZAC prize would provide “an incredible opportunity to travel overseas, and experience firsthand all that the people who defended Australia did”.

“It’ s something that I am very passionate about, Australia’s war history and the Anzacs,” she said.

“Ms Henley has been a great influence on that. She’s so passionate. And the more you learn about it the more appreciation you have for these people who have sacrificed themselves and so much for, well, for us.”

The process of entry for the annual competition was a long one, with nearly 500 students from across the state submitting pieces ranging from essays and poetry to artworks, videos and songs, all reflecting the applicants’ understanding and appreciation of the efforts and sacrifices of those who fought for their country. A lot of research goes into their pieces, and a great deal is learned along the way that deepens prior interests and passions.

As part of her submission, Hannah wrote a poem about her Pop Bailey, who she never met, but heard her father speak of his time in World War II.

“I’ve had a few on both sides of my family involved in war,” she said.

“The poem that I entered I actually wrote about my great grandfather on my father’s side. He went by Bill Bailey, but his actual name was Lawrence Bailey.”

Hannah’ s poem, simply titled Pop Bailey, follows her great grandfather’ s enlistment at Caulfield on June 6, 1940, and subsequent training at Puckapunyal and his anticipation of participating in his first battle.

It visualises the inexperience of the young soldiers as my comrades fall; bullets tear through their young bodies.
We are stranded An eternity, and darkness falls We stumble back, leaving the 27
bullet-shredded corpses, our mates.
As Hannah’ s great grandfather is captured her poem speaks of the horrors.
We’ re skeletons marched past lifeless
The skeleton stirs: it’s a man, still alive! Is this to be our fate?

Hannah presents the harsh treatment of the Australian captives by the Japanese and then the feelings as the war ends.

Once a soldier, I am now a slave No food, my body feeds on my flesh No rest, we slave on the railway I watch my mates fall – to disease,
to injury, to massacre But I won’t give in I steal some food, for my mates! I
don’ t care if the guards catch me out I won’ t give in, won’ t bow down to
the Japs. September 1945, the war is over!
We’re rescued but while my body ticks on, a part of me died long ago. Now I sit at the bottom of a bottle
of gin I drown myself in it to drown out
the gunfire, To drown out the screams Resonating inside my head.

“I have always found poems to convey emotions and personal experiences while also relaying stories and historical information,” Hannah said.

“Further, I connect well with poetry and find it an intimate way to convey hard facts.

“Researching for and writing this poem has taught me much about the experiences and perspectives of Australians during the war. I cannot even fathom how these people held strong and kept battling in the harshest of conditions.”

Once applicants had pulled together their entry piece, Hannah said they were required to prepare a statement of intention.

“We had to explain our piece, explaining how we researched for it and why we entered it, the reasons behind it,” Hannah said.

Among her reasons were her family connections.

“It makes it more personal,” she said.

“The process provided a personal side of the war for me, rather than just the  facts.”

As part of her research, Hannah interviewed her grandparents and her dad.

“Dad didn’ t remember a whole lot about him (his grandfather), because when he came back from the war he was basically an alcoholic. So he remembers seeing him not in a good way. My grandparents remembered him a bit differently, as you’ d expect.

“It was very interesting to hear the personal side of it.”

Statements of intention were submitted around the middle of last year. As she progressed through the competition Hannah attended a group interview day at the Shrine of Remembrance in early December.

“It was a pretty big day, but I loved it,” Hannah said.

“It was very, very fun and it felt like a huge achievement just to get that far.”

Then it was a matter of simply waiting.

In early January, while she was travelling overseas, Hannah’s letter arrived.

“Mum told me the letter had arrived and I asked her to open it for me. She sent the photo of it through and I was reading it and was so excited to be accepted,” she said.

Now there’s a little more waiting for Hannah as she prepares to head to Vietnam and Singapore with 21 other students from April 7 to 17.

“I’m sure it will be a real eye opener,” Hannah said.

“There will be lots of confronting things that we’ll experience.

“I hope to gain a greater knowledge and appreciation for what these incredible people did for us, as well as gaining a new perspective on the war, being that of the Vietnamese army and guerrillas.”

Hannah said it was such an honour to have been selected for the prize and to “retrace the steps of the more than 55,000 Australians who dedicated themselves and sacrificed their life at home for us in Vietnam”.

Hannah’ s plans are to study physics and “hopefully become an astrophysicist”.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with history, but this is something that I am really passionate about,” she said.

Gippsland East MP and Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Tim Bull, was on hand to congratulate Hannah at a special ceremony in Melbourne on February 14 where prize recipients and regional finalists were presented their certificates.

“There aren’t many people who get the chance to travel overseas to further their knowledge in Australia’s war history, so this really is an opportunity of a lifetime for Hannah, especially at just 16 years of age,” Mr Bull said.

Her teacher, Julie Henley, said Hannah continues the proud tradition at Nagle of honouring Australian service men and women through her actions.

“Since 2014 Nagle have had seven participants as recipients, finalists and teacher chaperone in the Premier’ s Spirit of ANZAC Prize, which is a wonderful achievement for a regional school,” Ms Henley said.

“I know Hannah’ s life will be broadened and enriched by her study tour, walking in the footsteps of our Australian service men and women and learning more of the qualities which bind us together as a nation.”

As part of the Spirit of ANZAC program, 20 regional finalists will also visit Canberra and be invited to attend the Premier’s ANZAC Day Luncheon.

PICTURED: Nagle College student, Hannah Martin, will head to Vietnam and Singapore next month as a Premier’s Spirit of ANZAC Prize winner.