The veteran who ensures our students never forget
Reg Chard has been a stalwart of Holsworthy High's Remembrance Day and ANZAC Day commemorations for the past decade.
11 November 2022
As schools across NSW marked Remembrance Day at 11am today, for some schools and students the event had a deeper significance.
Wattle Grove Public School and Holsworthy High School are two NSW public schools that have significant numbers of students whose families are serving members of the Australian Defence Force.
At Holsworthy High School 66 students from 48 families have parents currently serving in the Australia Defence Force.
Among the guests of honour was Reg Chard, 99 years old and a veteran of the Kokoda campaign in World War II.
Mr Chard told the Sydney Morning Herald he had never been to an official Anzac Day march or Remembrance Day service, preferring to mark the day at Holsworthy High School.
Holsworthy High School principal Mark Watkins said for the past 10 years Mr Chard had recited the ODE at the school’s ANZAC and Remembrance Day Services and also talked about his experiences with Year 9 history classes.
Representatives from a range of veterans’ groups attended the service including the National Serviceman, Vietnam Veterans, Australian War Widows of NSW, Legacy War Widows and Legacy.
“It is just so important to the Holsworthy community for our students to honour and show their appreciation to the military for protecting our country and the freedoms we enjoy,” Mr Watkins said.
“Our school has a strong connection with the Australian Defence Force with many students’ parents employed in the armed forces.”
The school is also home to an historic flag pole that reflects the school site’s past as an internment camp to house POWs. The flag pole has been restored to how it looked in World War II.
Mr Watkins said the transformation of the POW camp into a school illustrated “the ability of our nation to use lessons from the past in a regenerative sense, setting the stage for the lessons of future generations”.
At Wattle Grove Public, where 19 per cent of students come from defence families, the school grounds contain physical reminders of the school’s defence families through a poppy garden, Lone Pine wall and tree and mural.
The garden provides students with a place to reflect, respect and remember the contribution of those who have served while students can also stand alongside a Lone Pine, which is a descendant of the original Lone Pine in Gallipoli.
The Lone Pine was a solitary tree on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, which marked the site of the Battle of Lone Pine in August 1915.
The ANZAC mural, which is visible from the street, commemorates those who have served and are currently serving in the armed forces.
Wattle Grove Public principal Nicole Cameron said the tree and the mural were “a symbol of what makes us Wattle Grove”.
“Although not all our families are defence, community members are very respectful and many have connections to the armed forces, whether it be a friend, neighbour or distance relative,” she said.
“The mural and tree are visuals that provide daily reminders of the sacrifices that have been and are continued to be made to keep us safe.”
For this year’s Remembrance Day Service the school invited family members and created a gallery titled 'We Give Thanks', where students wrote about a family member who has or is currently serving.
Wattle Grove Public School also has a School Defence Mentor who works with defence family students.
The mentor, Kiri Dorr, runs support programs for students who have parents serving overseas including check-ins, lunchtime activities, wellbeing activities, connecting with the parent at home, writing letters to the parent overseas or making a gift.
She also connects our families with defence support services and runs transition programs for student who have arrived new to our school or are leaving due to a posting.
In Newcastle, New Lambton Public School had a special Remembrance Day this year. After their 11am ceremony a plaque from the RAAF was unveiled and a memorial garden opened marking 80 years since the RAAF took the school over as a radar base to aid the war effort.
They were there for two years, so the students had to go to other local schools, something the current principal Justine Abell says her father, Lyall Abell, can still remember, having spent Years 5 and 6 at Cardiff Public School.
“That’s the sort of thing the stays in the memory, although from what I understand it was all pretty much accepted as the students and families ‘doing their bit’,” said Ms Abell.
As a result the school is one of only two in Australia with authority to fly the RAAF ensign, which fluttered proudly above the day’s proceedings.