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Ogilvie students explore the Western Front

OGILVIE High School students Alice Curtain and Lilah Gmelig recently commemorated the ANZAC centenary in a very special way.

As two of five Tasmanian students who won the Frank MacDonald Memorial Prize (FMMP), Miss Curtain and Miss Gmelig travelled to northern France and Belgium to visit World War 1 (WWI) battlefields on the Western Front.

The FMMP is an essay-based competition for year nine students that promotes and preserves the meaning of the ANZAC spirit in the Tasmanian community.

Miss Curtain said she had always been interested in WWI and history in general, so when she heard about the FMMP she was “immediately intrigued.”

“I chose to enter because the chance to learn more about WWI and our soldiers would be a once in a lifetime opportunity,” she said.

“I became very fascinated with the personal stories of the ANZACs and their families’ experiences at home, along with how the legend has survived for 100 years.”

Miss Gmelig said her interest was sparked after learning about WWI in class.

“I was looking to push myself a bit further and the FMMP was the perfect opportunity,” she said.

“My dad has always had an interest in WWI and it surely rubbed off on me.

“Ever since I was little he has taken me to the ANZAC Day Dawn Service and I have always known the importance of remembering our diggers.”

The FMMP group travelled to France and Belgium from 16-30 April.

The students spent 10 days visiting WWI battlefields on the Western Front, where Frank MacDonald (Tasmania’s last surviving ANZAC soldier) bravely fought.

Miss Gmelig said when she found out a she had won a spot on the trip there were “tears, screams and honest disbelief.”

“The prize was so incredible, it was unbelievable to me,” she said.

“I was so excited about learning things in a way I never have before and we got to experience something together that not many people would understand the power behind.

“I want to go back some day with my dad and show him all the amazing places we went – all the places he’s read of and is interested in.

“After all, he started this passion for me, so it’s something I want him to experience as well.”

Miss Curtain said the trip, and experience as a whole, was more than she ever could have imagined.

“The previous participants had told me stories, so my expectations were high,” she said.

“But the experience of FMMP was more than their stories could ever tell. It has changed my life.”

As part of the competition, students were required to answer one of two questions about WWI via an essay or media presentation.

In her essay, Miss Curtain discussed the significance of ANZAC Day in the immediate years after the Gallipoli landing.

“I discussed how ANZAC Day has the ability to bring us together as a nation and how it is important to remember the event because there is no longer anyone alive who was at the Gallipoli landing,” she said.

“I chose this stance because of the people who celebrate it and how it represents our modern Australia being recognised by the world.”

Miss Gmelig took a different approach and argued the importance of ensuring that both service men and women were equally honoured for forging the ANZAC spirit.

“I believe that our nurses are the forgotten heroes of WWI,” she said.

“Especially at that time, and even now, they aren’t viewed as sharing the same spirit that the men are so well known for.

“Irrespective of rank, role or duty, all those who served for our country did so with courage, resilience and mateship.”

For more information about the FMMP, go to www.dpac.tas.gov.au/divisions/csrt/programs_and_services/frank_macdonald_memorial_prize

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