A message from the Mayor - How war changed our community

Published on 25 April 2016

On behalf of Mildura Rural City Council I would like to acknowledge all servicemen and women, past and those currently serving - this is your day and we’re privileged to be honouring you during ANZAC Day celebrations.

The Great War which began more than 100 years ago, took approximately 30% of our local population at that time off to fight for our future. 

According to the Mildura RSL, during World War I, 1457 men and women left their homes here to serve their country and of those, 375 men lost their lives and approximately 800 were wounded or suffered severe illness, a huge cost in human terms to our region. 

This year, I want to stop to think about the impact that this war, and the following wars and conflicts, have had on our community - the way families were and are changed forever, destiny’s realised and lost, opportunities squandered and won and attitudes realigned in a new world.

How many mothers and fathers were left without sons and daughters? No one to take on their legacy, to take over their businesses or land, to carry on the family name.  What happened to their history, to their stories, to their customs?

How many men and women lost the love of their life?  Did they remarry or remain forever heartbroken?  Did they have children with a new love or spend time thinking of those lost years?  Were widowed mothers forced out of their homes to find work?

How many children grew up without knowing one or both of their parents?  Were they showered with love or did they feel let down by a twist of fate that left them alone?  Did they become part of a new blended family?  There are many stories of widows and widowers marrying after war and bringing their families together, sometimes successfully and sometimes not so.

And of those families whose loved ones returned, was life ever the same?  Were they the same people who left, or had the war left them scarred physically and mentally? 

What about our Aboriginal diggers?  They fought and died alongside their fellow soldiers and in the trenches were treated the same as everyone else, paid the same and accepted without prejudice.  But when they returned home, they were again faced with discrimination.  How must it have felt to come “home” and no longer be allowed a beer at the pub with your mates from the battlefield?

So many questions about what might have been, how different families may have been, how different our towns may have been and yet today we look around us and see the result of such bravery and sheer determination. Our people stood and fought, drew on that determination and created the peaceful and enjoyable part of the world we call Mildura and surrounds. What a legacy these brave men and women have left for us.  

I am grateful for what they have provided and for the lives those left behind have forged for us.

So when we look at our Honour Rolls today and see the names of local families that have served in wars over the years, let’s remember the sacrifices of those who fought, those who stayed behind and those whose best laid plans have forever been changed by war. 

Lest We Forget.

Cr Glenn Milne