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Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
ONCE IN A LIFETIME
EXCURSION FOR STUDENTS
It's being described as a once in a
lifetime oppor tunity, and one that St
Peter's Campus, All Saints College,
student Georgia Fillis and two other
Catholic secondary students from the
Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, will
soon have the privilege of being able to
say they experienced.
Next week, Georgia will join St
Joseph's Lochinvar student Samuel
Guadagnini and St Catherine's Singleton
student Brigid Thomas as they depar t
for Gallipoli to commemor ate the
centenary of the Gallipoli landing on 25
April. They will represent their school
and tr avel with 17 other students from
the Hunter, all of whom were selected
from more than 150 applicants to
travel to Turkey as par t of the Hunter
Valley District Council (HVDC) of RSL
Sub-Br anches Anzac Tour.
The application process took almost
three year s and committing to the
process required a sense of maturity
and foresight well beyond the students'
Finding out about the oppor tunity
on her very first day of high school
three year s ago, Georgia said that as
her teacher described the "tour of a
lifetime" to her, his enthusiasm wa s
"I was gr asping onto every detail of the
trip, and nearly bur st with excitement
as he explained the itinerary. Sitting in
that hall, on my very first day of Year
7, I promised myself I would tr y my
hardest to be par t of this wonder ful
experience," she said. And now, three
years on, she will be.
HVDC decided to embark on the
ambitious project to help young
Australians connect with the legacy of
Gallipoli and the significance of Anzac
Day. As par t of the selection process ,
students were required to research a
family member who fought in World
War I, prefer ably at Gallipoli, or select
a name from their local War Memorial
and research that soldier; a process
which took 12-18 months.
Samuel discovered he was a direct
descendant of a Gallipoli veter an : his
great great grandfather, Joseph Potter.
"I didn't even realise I had a relative
over there prior to this process but I
lear nt so much; that he was discharged
after being stabbed six days before the
'Battle of the Nek' which was lucky a s
he probably would have been there as
he was in the Third Light Hor se. So this
makes the trip more special, knowing
people of my blood fought over there.
It will be an ama zing experience," he
Brigid said she learnt mor e about her
mother's family, "including my great,
gr eat uncle, Hugh McAlary from the
35th Battalion, known a s 'Newcastle's
own regiment' because of the number
of boys from Newcastle in it". And "the
soldier s who fought were not much
older than me and faced unimaginable
hor ror s," she said.
Georgia agreed and said that as her
research project progressed, she wa s
"engrossed in the histor y of the War
and how much these men...most
of them not much more than boys,
sacrificed and went through to achieve
the world we live in today.
"I was consumed by the Anzac spirit.
I was completely enthr alled by the
stories I'd stumbled upon, putting
pieces of my project together and
creating an under standing of the War."
Georgia wa s so inspired, she took
her research to a new level, tr avelling
to Canberr a to see what she could
dig up at the National Archives and
Australian War Memorial. "It was there
that I requested specific documents
be unsealed (because even 100 years
after the war we still haven't published
half the documentation from the
time). I got the honour of being the
fir st per son to see cer tain documents
since the War. It was with great pride
that I brought all my information on my
soldier back to his family to see for the
Teacher chaperone and tour organiser,
Michelle Archer, said "the panel has
seen how much the students have
already grown through their research
projects and how much they have
"We are hoping the tour will give
the students that fir st-hand, tangible
experience of the countr y and culture
Top left Samuel Guadagnini has learned he's a direct descendant of an Anzac veteran.
Top right, Georgia Fillis and bottom right, Brigid Thomas.
that is so intrinsically linked with the stor y of
"The students will visit all the places they have
only ever read about and it will give them a
greater appreciation of what 'their' soldier s
(and all soldier s) went through."
Georgia said she's already been inspired by
what she's lear nt but is looking for ward to
lear ning more, standing on the soil where the
"This trip has already star ted to open our eyes
to the history of our ancestors, and it has
started a yearning inside of me to learn more,
not just about histor y, but about the world.
"Being accepted onto a tour this memorable
and life-changing has really influenced me to
be the best I can be...I expect more from
And what she's most looking for ward to?
"Standing on the shores of Gallipoli on the
day it all happened 100 year s ago. It feels like
every thing has led up to the moment I will
be standing on that shore, with the waves
sof tly crashing behind me, the atmosphere
dense with emotion and the ghost of suffering
whisking by us, lightly gr asping at our clothes.
I will be able to not only see, but touch the
ground where thousands of digger s have died,
their blood shed to bring the poppies to life. I
daresay I'm ready to become over whelmed
with emotions as I stand on the shore, as
I'm sure it will be one of the most emotional
things I will do in my life.
"It will change us indefinitely. We will have the
weight of our knowledge on our shoulder s , as
the Anzac legend is one we will never be able
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more photos and updates from our students
and others from their Gallipoli experience.
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