ROTTNEST REMEMBERS PAUL HANSON
IT has been more than 20 years since Pat Websdale visited Rottnest Island.
But on April 25 – Anzac Day – Ms Websdale will travel to the island with her children and grandchildren to honour Private Paul Hansen, her partner of 38 years, who died last year.
Pte Hansen had been attending the Rottnest Island Anzac Day service since 2008, representing indigenous ex-servicemen and women.
The Rottnest Island ceremony is believed to be the only one that officially recognises indigenous ex-servicemen and women.
“It meant everything to him,” Ms Websdale said. “2015 was his last… he passed away last year.”
Pte Hansen served in Vietnam between 1970 and 1972 starting as a rifleman before becoming a forward scout and finishing his service on the machine guns.
“Paul and I were teenage lovers then we went our separate ways and reconnected in 1979 and were together ever since,” Ms Websdale said.
While she did not attend a Rottnest Island service with Pte Hansen, his family accompanied him to a Kings Park service during National Reconciliation Week each year.
On April 25, Pte Hansen’s grandchildren will be wearing miniature Vietnam service medals he made them.
His grandchildren will join students from Rottnest Island Primary School – an Annex of Beaconsfield PS – including Chathumi Abeyaratne (9) and Noah Mclaughlin (6) who will be laying wreaths at the service.
Rottnest Island Authority chief executive Michelle Reynolds, who will attend the island service for the first time, said she was looking forward to watching the sun come up and experiencing the moving and profound service.
“The beauty of the island is it has so much history and you don’t have to look very far for it,” she said.
Chathumi Abeyaratne (9), Pat Websdale and Noah Mclaughlin (6).