March | 2015
Defence Magazine cover, March 2015
Cover Story
The Defence Support Queensland Business Manager, Henry Lourens. Photo by Corporal Shannon McCarthy

For a new generation

By Darryl Johnston

A Defence support Queensland business manager has developed a Centenary of Anzac project for a local college in his spare time.

A Brisbane college has implemented an education program developed by Defence Support Queensland business manager Henry Lourens. A former Australian War Memorial volunteer guide, Henry developed the program in his own time.

His remembrance program requires students to research the stories of those whose names appear on the Australian War Memorial's Roll of Honour in Canberra.

It has been adopted by Year 8 students from Grace Lutheran College in Brisbane who will be visiting the Australian War Memorial in late March.

"It's my modest contribution to the Centenary of Anzac that comes from my days as a volunteer guide at the Australian War Memorial, my passion for military history and my admiration for those whose names appear on the Roll of Honour," Henry says. "As a War Memorial guide, I became aware that many names on the Roll of Honour have fallen from contemporary memory.

"While a lot of names are still current and some are famous, for others, their loved ones have died and there is no-one to remember them or place a poppy beside their name." Henry recalls one experience as a guide that brought a tear to his eye and helped inspire the program.

"I led the great grand-daughter of a Boer War veteran around the Memorial on a private tour with her family. She had never been before," he says. "I took her to where her great grandfather's name was and gave a reading from the minister who presided over his funeral in South Africa. "My eyes began to well up.

"After the reading, her son lifted his nine-year-old daughter onto his shoulders and she placed a poppy beside his name. It was an emotional moment."

As Henry guided other tourists around the Memorial and reflected on that moment he asked himself, "who will remember the people and the stories of those whose names are on the Roll of Honour and where there are no poppies?"

"I came up with the idea for a remembrance project and I thought, who better to do the research than school children to carry on those stories?" he says.

Henry approached the principal of Grace Lutheran College, Ruth Butler, who introduced him to the social science faculty. Ruth says she and her colleagues were taken by Henry’s passion for military history and enthusiasm for the program and agreed to make it part of the student's Canberra excursion. "I am hoping the program will bring Australian history and war experience into reality for the students and they are able to identify with the people who fought and died in war," Ruth says.

Middle School English and Social Sciences Curriculum Coordinator, Kerri-Anne Nolan, says the program is part of a three-week course, which will include the excursion and visit to the Australian War Memorial.

"The Year 8 students will work in small groups, assigned a name that appears on the Roll of Honour and undertake the research about the service and sacrifice of that individual," she says.

Kerrie-Anne hopes the students will gain a greater understanding of historical accuracy and a realisation that behind each name is a person and a story.

"I want them to connect with the name so that it's not just a name on a wall, but a person who had a family and experiences much like their own," she says.

Ruth says the program will help students find greater interest in Australian history as they visit places of significance, such as the Australian War Memorial, and undertake research on location.

"Many students struggle with Australian history," she says.

"Visiting memorials makes it more interesting and helps the students connect to people, places and significant events." Henry says he hopes the students will gain an insight into the meaning of Anzac Day, the concept of remembrance and the phrase 'Lest We Forget'.

"I also hope that with their help those behind the names on the Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour will have a voice during the Centenary of Anzac," he says.