A picture tells a thousand words about war heroes

Five public school students are among nine finalists in the inaugural RSL and Schools Remember ANZAC Art Exhibition. Linda Doherty reports.

Image: Savannah-Lee Presbury, from Cambridge Park Public School, with her great grandfather, James Considine, and a copy of her winning artwork, ‘Lest We Forget’.

A young girl offers a poppy, the symbol of war remembrance, to a soldier in the shadows in Savannah-Lee Presbury’s haunting artwork.

Savannah, in Year 5 at Cambridge Park Public School, is the primary winner in the RSL and Schools Remember ANZAC Art Exhibition, held to mark the 70th anniversary this year of the Schools Remember Anzac Commemoration.

The 10-year-old said she wanted to highlight to younger generations in ‘Lest We Forget’ the sacrifices made by the Anzacs who “put their lives on the line to protect our country”.

“Many people died and never returned to their families. We are lucky that this is something we don't have to go through,” she said.

Savannah’s great grandfather, 90-year-old James Considine, was a sergeant in the Australian Army and was the inspiration for her artwork.

“He is always happy and makes everyone smile and laugh. He has taught me that family is the most important thing and to enjoy the things I love,” she said.

“He tells me to work hard and never give up.”

James Considine’s father – and Savannah’s great-great grandfather – was John Peter Considine, who served in the AIF 10th Battalion in France in World War I from 1915 to 1917, when he returned injured to Australia.

RSL NSW President Ray James said the art competition was a great way for school students to reflect and learn about Australia’s military history by tapping into their imagination and creativity.

RSL NSW takes great pride in preserving the memory of all those who have served their country and I commend the students and art teachers in schools across NSW for the hard work and passion that has gone into such high-quality commemorative artworks,” Mr James said.

The secondary winner was Year 9 student Charli Biram from Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College Berkeley Vale Campus for ‘Our Unsung Heroes’. Her classmate, Alisha Sawatske was highly commended in this category for ‘Service Dogs’.

Charli said her artwork highlighted the work of Australian nurses on the frontline in World War II and paid tribute to Olga Marcella Anderson, who enlisted in the Australian Military Forces in December 1941 and served until January 1947.

“My mother is a nurse and seeing her work during the pandemic made me reflect on the work and service of our medical professionals and unsung heroes,” Charli said.

Alisha said her artwork, ‘Service Dogs’ – a puppy wearing medals – showed the bravery, courage and service of the dogs “in the most tumultuous times in history”.

Carlie Wells, principal of Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College Berkeley Vale Campus, said Charli and Alisha were “incredible students with exceptional talent”.

“All staff at Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College are proud of their achievements and the girls are celebrated by our entire school community,” she said.

Katrina Berwick, principal of Cambridge Park Public School, said 30 students participated in the Anzac art competition.

“Our school community is very proud of Savannah's achievements,” she said.

“Our students are always engaged and eager to learn about the Anzacs and the history of Australians in war.”

Teachers teach an Anzac unit leading up to Anzac Day, each year focusing on a specific aspect of history such as the relevance of the poppy.

Another finalist, Dharug student Sianna Foster-Ryan, submitted her artwork, ‘Fate’, when she was in Year 6 last year at Warnervale Public School. She is now in Year 7 at Wadalba Community School.

“I know some of my ancestors were a part of World War II, but I’ve never seen any Aboriginal artworks about the war,” she said.

Abir Baroudi, Year 5, at Bankstown West Public School, was also a finalist with ‘The sun will always shine on the soldiers for past, present and future’, inspired by the heroic soldiers who “died to let us live”.

“Just take a second to imagine how you would feel if your Mum or Dad left you. You would cry so hard and that's what happened to all of those kids,” she said.

The RSL and Schools Remember ANZAC Art Exhibition is on display at the Anzac Memorial, Hyde Park, Sydney, from 3 to 30 April 2023. Entry is free.

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