I’d like to acknowledge the Governor-General, His Excellency General the Hon David Hurley, AC DSC; organisers of the Simpson Prize, the History Teachers’ Association of Australia; Paul Foley, Chair of the Simpson Prize Advisory Committee; and state and territory winners and runners-up of the 2020 and 2021 Simpson Prize.
Thank you for the opportunity to be here today and a warm welcome to everyone involved in the Simpson Prize joining us online.
Let me congratulate you all on your entries. I have read a selection of the winning essays from the 2020 and 2021 competitions, and they are outstanding. Well done everyone.
I hope the $5000 information technology package you will each receive goes some way in acknowledging all your hard work and efforts in researching and writing your submissions.
The Simpson Prize, of course, is such an inspiring national competition for Year 9 and 10 students.
Named after John Simpson Kirkpatrick, known by the story of ‘Simpson and his donkey’, the prize reflects the character and exploits of an Australian who became famous for his work as a stretcher-bearer at Gallipoli.
Simpson and his donkey worked day and night, transporting wounded men from the fighting, to the relative safety of the beach on Anzac Cove. For those wounded men, Simpson was a lifesaver.
Tragically, Simpson was killed on the 19th of May in 1915 by machine-gun fire while carrying two wounded men.
His story represents not just his own courage and selflessness, but those of a generation called upon to dedicate their lives to the service of their country.
We hold on to the story of Simpson and his donkey, and countless others like it, so that their experiences are not forgotten, and we can continue to embody their values today.
Last year’s Simpson Prize entrants were asked to think about how the ‘Allied victory brought an end to war, suffering and challenges for Australia and its people.’, and to what extent the experiences of 1919 support this view.
Of course, we know that when the fighting ended, the hardships didn’t. For those who lost fathers, sons, brothers or sisters, stark difficulties persisted far beyond the end of the war.
As they did for the thousands of soldiers who made it home – their lives irrevocably changed.
Here lies the importance of commemoration: to reflect, honour and remember the events that shape our history – including their lasting consequences.
This year’s prize asked: ‘How lesser known stories from the Western Front expand our understanding of the Australian experience of the First World War?’
It is simple to think of war in terms of numbers – battles fought, deaths on both sides, and territories gained and lost.
But there is so much more to the service of a country and commitment to the greater good. Humanitarian efforts; assisting recovery from physical and psychological trauma; and work on the home-front being but a few examples.
These stories are told at the Australian War Memorial – a key supporter of the Simpson Prize and an advocate for the study of history.
In fact, through support from the Government, the War Memorial is embarking on an ambitious development of its facilities to better tell the ‘lesser known stories’ of contemporary conflicts – stories like those explored by our Award winners today.
Uncovering these lesser known stories is extremely important to those who lived them and to their families and loved ones.
It helps us all to understand more about what those who serve their country endure, so we can appreciate the democratic freedoms we have today.
So again, congratulations to the winners and runners-up of The Simpson Prize. The academic rigour and research capability you’ve all demonstrated in the papers and audio-visual presentations you submitted – both this year and last – is very impressive.
I hope you are all very proud of your efforts; as I know that your teachers, parents, and I certainly are.
Your work shows that the Anzac legacy is in very good hands.