Noah gives voice to those who were silenced

Gen Z students remember the fallen at the RSL and Schools Remember Anzac Commemoration. Linda Doherty reports.

Image: In his forefathers’ footsteps: Noah Smith delivering the Acknowledgement of Country at the Schools Remember Anzac service. Photo: Giovanni Portelli.

“If we don’t learn from the past, what will our future look like?

This was the question posed by Gomeroi student Noah Smith as he delivered the Acknowledgement of Country at the annual schools’ Anzac service on Gadigal Country.

The RSL and Schools Remember Anzac Commemoration at the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park was conducted on Monday entirely by school students and attended by more than 300 students from 60 public, Catholic and Independent schools.

The service, marking its 70th anniversary this year, aims to educate primary and secondary school students about Australia’s military history, while paying respect to the service and sacrifice of servicemen and women of the Australian Defence Force.

The past for Noah’s family – and for many other Aboriginal people – includes the lack of recognition for Indigenous defence force personnel when they returned from wars and conflicts.

Noah’s great grandfather, John Henry Francis Dasey, served in World War II and his great-great grandfather, Thomas George Hibberd, was a driver in World War I.

“I am very proud of them,” said Noah, a Year 11 student at Barrenjoey High School.

“Many Australians have similar stories about their families, yet the Indigenous men and women that fought beside my grandfathers were denied the same benefits, rights and support that non-Indigenous soldiers received when they returned home.

“They weren't given land, full pay or permitted in RSL clubs.”

Noah said times had changed significantly as more Australians learned about and accepted the culture of Aboriginal people as the traditional custodians and owners of the country.

Fast creating his future as a spokesman for young people, Noah was last week named as one of 40 Australian students to advise the Federal Minister for Youth, Anne Aly. He is also Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the NSW Youth Parliament and the 2023 Northern Beaches Young Citizen of the Year.

“I would like to thank the NSW Department of Education for its commitment to Aboriginal students. This commitment and willingness to help is a vital part of what allows our culture to continue and thrive into the next generation,” Noah said.

The Anzac schools’ service was conducted before an official party led by the Governor of NSW, Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley, and Deputy Premier and Minister for Education and Early Learning Prue Car. Dignitaries also included RSL NSW President Ray James, NSW Department of Education Secretary Georgina Harrisson, CEO Catholic Schools NSW Dallas McInerney, and Chief Executive, Association of Independent Schools of NSW, Margery Evans.

Public schools involved in the service were: Barrenjoey High School (Acknowledgement of Country and Prayer for Peace by Noah Smith); Model Farms High School (Junior Legatee Isabella Hurney-Butcher read the Dedication and The Ode); Ku-ring-gai High School (flag orderlies) and Wattle Grove Public School (program guides and wreath presenters).

The RSL and Schools Remember ANZAC Commemoration was first held in 1953, co-hosted by RSL NSW and the NSW Department of Education. Over the years the service has expanded to include Catholic Schools NSW and the Association of Independent Schools NSW.

The first Anzac commemorations were held on 25 April 1916, with marches and ceremonies in Australia, New Zealand, London and a sports day in the Australian military camp in Egypt. In the Sydney march, convoys of cars carried soldiers wounded at Gallipoli and their nurses, according to the Australian War Memorial.

Anzac Day today now commemorates the Australian lives lost in all wars and conflicts and military and peacekeeping operations.

As NSW public education celebrates its 175th anniversary in 2023, the schools’ Anzac service is symbolic of the involvement of public schools in patriotic ceremonies such as Empire Day from 1903 to the 1950s.

  • 175 years
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