Opening of Winchelsea war memorial cairns

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Winchelsea RSL members will lead a community commemoration on 21 August acknowledging formal opening of the town’s war memorial cairns and the region’s proud service history.

The three illustrated glass cairns in Memorial Park flanking the Barwon River honour service men and women from both World Wars and other conflicts, as well as Australian Victoria Cross recipients.

The opening, following almost two years of pandemic delays, will also celebrate the launch of a digital map which helps bring alive stories of service, sacrifice and heroism from the memorials.

The map can be accessed via QR code from mobile phones on-site or via www.surfcoast.vic.gov.au/cairns and enables users to look up individual topics from the cairns and memorial park and explore more details.

It provides background on Winchelsea’s military service history, links to detailed information on conflicts, lists of service men and women and information on subjects including the role of women during and after war, prisoners of war, ANZACs, Winchelsea Victoria Cross recipient Albert Jacka and other VC recipients.

Surf Coast Shire councillors Heather Wellington and Adrian Schonfelder will join RSL and community members for the launch.

Cr Wellington said the cairns and park had become a special place at the heart of Winchelsea.

“The garden with its Gallipoli Centenary roses, rosemary and lone pine from Gallipoli has become a beautiful stately place for commemoration and reflection,” Cr Wellington said.

“Council is proud to have partnered with our RSL leaders who have driven this project with such vision and passion.”

Cr Schonfelder said the digital map greatly enhances the cairns experience.

“While honouring our service men and women, the cairns also provide important context around Winchelsea’s service story,” Cr Schonfelder said.

“The digital map adds a valuable dimension providing supporting background and details around subject matter, allowing people on-site as well as from afar to reach deeper into the history and stories.”

Surf Coast Shire Council provided $50,000 for the cairns project, the Australian Government $110,000 through the Department of Infrastructure and the Victorian Government $30,000 through the Veterans Affairs Office.

Winchelsea RSL president Robin Mawson acknowledged the funding contributions, and support of the Winchelsea community.

“Winchelsea RSL is so proud to see a real dream for us, and especially for two of our late members Kevin Bennett and his mate Des Donohue, come to life,” Mr Mawson said.

“Their wish was to honour and remember the commitment that all of those young people made to Australia and remember it in a tangible way for all to see – highlighting when they were called to defend their country with their lives, youth and health.

“Without the vision of Kevin and Des the cairns probably would not have come to fruition.

“Our RSL has worked hard with Surf Coast Shire Council to ensure that the memorial is a very special part of town.”

Federal Member for Corangamite Libby Coker said the Winchelsea RSL memorial cairns project serves several purposes for the Winchelsea community.

“It commemorates and honours local military service history, provides an educational purpose for local students and residents and will assist in attracting visitors to the area. I am thrilled to see this project come to fruition. It is my honour to participate in the official opening and pay my respects to the brave men and women of Winchelsea and District who have served in major conflicts and peacekeeping missions,” she said.

Victorian Minister for Veterans Shaun Leane congratulated Winchelsea community.

“The veteran community helped make Victoria what it is today. Our commitment is to continue to maintain their stories for future generations,” Mr Leane said.

“I am proud to continue the Victorian Government’s support for communities honouring and commemorating our proud war heritage.

“I applaud ex-service organisations and community groups’ commitment to honouring our service people, their families and loved ones.”

The opening ceremony will include an RSL guard of honour and involvement by Geelong Military Re-enactment Group.

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