ON Wednesday morning this week, Year 5 and 6 students at Mildura South Primary (MSPS) took part in a memorial service honouring those brave souls who fought the Japanese in New Guinea and walked the Kokoda Track during the Second World War.
School principal Marie-Therese Milani said that the motivation behind honouring men and women who served our nation during war time was an integral part of the curriculum.
“The school has a war memorial and we have a focus on leadership which aims to grow our senior students into leaders − each and every one of them,” Ms Milani said.
“A large part of a positive education school is gratitude. Our program fosters gratitude for the time our service people have spent and the sacrifices they have made.
“The students and Mr Milani have created the memorial and in previous years the students have actually walked 100 kilometres around the perimeter of the school marking the distance of the Kokoda Track.
“Today is a very important day remembering Kokoda and remembering the sacrifices.
“As our students move on from this school and into later life they will remember and reflect on this time and understand the sacrifice and the service of our Australian men and women and the peace and freedoms they achieved for us all to enjoy.”
The event organiser, teacher and psychologist, Maurie Milani, who runs the school’s ‘Tomorrow’s leaders today’ program said the service was part of the vehicle by which they develop leadership in their students.
“Our own war memorial is approved by the Australian War Graves Commission and it is an official site that honours those who have served,” he said.
“While today’s service is an unofficial day, it is nonetheless an official day for all those who honour Kokoda. And on the 11th of November we will have a Remembrance Day service.
“The children will run the ceremony and will be joined by members of the Mildura RSL sub branch and two ex-service men who are our liaison officers with the RSL.”
Speaking at the commencement of the ceremony Ms Milani said that the stone memorial and the flag which flies above it, is a daily reminder, of those who have served and continue to serve this great nation of ours.
“Today, November 3rd, we commemorate and honour those that served on the Kokoda Track Campaign in 1942 and 1943,” she said.
“This campaign against the invading Japanese made all Australians aware that war was on our very doorstep.
“The Kokoda Track campaign to this very day, is steeped in tradition. It epitomises heroism, comradeship and human endurance.
It’s an iconic Australian time in history where yet again heroism and mateship prevailed.”
Ms Milani said that in 1942, young Australians went to New Guinea, which was then an Australian dependency to fight the enemy.
“None of these young men had any idea what they would encounter. Some as young as 16, 17 and 18, not much older than yourselves, had adventure in their mind, and service of their country in their hearts,” she said.
“The men of the 39th Battalion began their Kokoda trek on Tuesday, July 7, 1942, with the knowledge that the Japanese had landed on the northern shores and were coming overland to Port Moresby.
“The 39th Battalion and some of the New Guinea Regiments were code named ‘Maroubra Force’ and were given the task of halting the Japanese advance.
“After fierce fighting, the 39th was soon pushed back out of the Kokoda village, but by August 8, they succeeded again in retaking the village of Kokoda.
“This village, deep in the mountains, a village that no one knew about, was soon to become an Iconic and legendary name in Australia.”
Among the 39th, was a young soldier called Cec Driscoll a B Company, Mildura boy.
“Cec experienced the battles of the 39th and somehow he survived it all,” Ms Milani said.
“When interviewed in 2019, Cec said, and I quote; “Oh I don’t think we were heroes. We just did what we were asked to do, or told to do. We had no option. We were just ordinary people, …. ordinary blokes. We did what we had to do at the time.”
“Today, we can say with some certainty that there was nothing ordinary about what Cec and his mates did. They were heroes without knowing it.”
By JOHN DOOLEY
ABOVE: Mildura South Primary School Captains Alessandra Scherger and Tom Helms laying a wreath at Wednesday’s Kokoda memorial service.