Thursday, 16 November 2023
Centenary of the Port Augusta War Memorial Rotunda
I am delighted to be with you today to mark the rededication of the Port Augusta War Memorial Rotunda and commemorate its Centenary, 100 years to the very day.
It is an honour to follow in the footsteps of my predecessor Governor, Sir Willoughby Norrie.
It is also a privilege to pay tribute to a remarkable woman, Miss Ethel Campbell, who stood on the docks in Durban South Africa to welcome our World War I soldiers, approaching on their troopships.
As we stand where she stood during a visit to Australia 100 years ago to dedicate this memorial, we are minded to continue and strengthen her devotion to honour those who served.
Whether waving welcome messages via semaphore flags from the docks, calling out “Cooee” as a reminder of home, or handing out books, homemade jams, fruit or tobacco, Ethel’s kindness lifted the spirits of Australian soldiers about to serve the Empire on the frontlines, or those about to return home, often wounded, tired and homesick.
Her memory is also a testament to the selfless role that women have played in our war history.
Often unsung, always admired.
I’m told that when Ethel visited Australia with her parents in 1923, thousands of veterans turned out at wharves and train stations to catch a glimpse of her.
Their gratitude running deep.
And when World War II broke out, she again was there on the Durban docks to wish “good luck and safe journey” to many.
She truly was the “Angel of Durban”.
This rotunda is a visual symbol of the community’s gratitude to those who served and paid the ultimate price. It has clearly been beautifully maintained within a lovely garden as a testament to our deep respect.
The names etched on the rotunda’s plaques remind us of the profound impact that war, then far from our shores, had on our nation, community, and families.
Over time, the memorial has evolved, also honouring those killed in subsequent conflicts; Sir Willoughby Norrie unveiling a plaque to commemorate those who died in service in World War II, a plaque added to commemorate those who fell in the Vietnam War, and now memorials to the Iraq and Afghan wars and Aboriginal soldiers.
Each name on each plaque is a lasting tribute to the courage, valour, and patriotism of those who fought for our freedoms.
For their service, we remain eternally grateful.
It has been my honour, along with my husband Rod, to be present at services and commemorations of war memorials throughout the State.
Such memorials remain an important point of reference so each new generation can better understand how our lives today have been shaped by the fortitude and sacrifice of those who have gone before.
Those memorials, whether as a focus on Anzac or Remembrance Day or for personal private reflection, can strengthen our resolve to shape a better future.
I thank the Port Augusta Council for diligently maintaining the rotunda and the RSL for your dedicated service and mateship to our veterans. You are part of a caring community and in that way continue to serve.
Thank you for the honour you paid me by inviting me to be part of this ceremony.
I am sure Miss Ethel Campbell is with us today in spirit.
Lest we forget.