A MINUTE OF SI­LENCE

MR FLICK’S CHURCHILL FEL­LOW­SHIP

Dubbo Photo News - - Front page - By YVETTE AUBUSSON-FO­LEY

Dubbo-based Joseph Flick is a 2019 re­cip­i­ent of the cov­eted Churchill Fel­low­ship Award. With its as­sis­tance, he will soon em­bark on a project to re­search and doc­u­ment the burial sites of In­dige­nous sol­diers who died dur­ing World War I in the UK, France and Bel­gium.

It’s been a year since his ap­pli­ca­tion was sub­mit­ted and six weeks since he learned the good news about his Fel­low­ship. He at­tended an official cer­e­mony in Syd­ney last Fri­day with his daugh­ter where his award was of­fi­ci­ated by Gov­er­nor of NSW Mar­garet Bea­z­ley.

This project really be­gan six years ago when Mr Flick set out to learn the story of just one In­dige­nous sol­dier who fought in France – his grand­fa­ther.

Now, the Churchill Fel­low­ship will af­ford him an op­por­tu­nity to do the same for over 800 fam­i­lies.

It’s a story of re­con­nec­tion and clo­sure for de­scen­dants who, just like him, have fam­ily trees scarred by lives in­ter­rupted due to World War I, and for whom Re­mem­brance Day does not al­ways come around without tones of bit­ter­ness.

WALK­ING in the foot­steps of an an­ces­tor who fought or fell in France and Bel­gium in WWI is a pil­grim­age shared by hun­dreds of Aus­tralians.

Dubbo man Joe Flick first did this in 2013, vis­it­ing Villers-bre­ton­neux, a French town lib­er­ated by the Aus­tralian Im­pe­rial Force (AIF) sol­diers who stopped Ger­man forces ad­vanc­ing on April 24, 1918.

Joe’s grand­fa­ther, Michael, was one of those Dig­gers who en­dured and sur­vived the hor­rors of the trench war­fare – and fought the Ger­mans at Villers-bre­ton­neux on that day.

“While he was in the trenches with his mates, they were just mates. They fought and died to­gether. It was to­tally dif­fer­ent when they came home,” Mr Flick said.

There were no thanks for his ser­vice, or the sac­ri­fice made.

“My Pop’s kids weren’t al­lowed to go to school be­cause they were Abo­rig­i­nal, he couldn’t drink in the pub or go to the RSL Club for a drink in the bar, like other re­turned ser­vice­men, be­cause he was Abo­rig­i­nal.”

In Villers-bre­ton­neux, there was lit­tle in­for­ma­tion about Abo­rig­i­nal sol­diers and also none of the prej­u­dice.

“I asked (the Aus­tralian French Mu­seum in Villers-bre­ton­neux) if I could help put to­gether some in­for­ma­tion and they agreed,” he said.

He has re­turned four times to France since, but a visit next year will last eight weeks in his role as a 2019 Churchill Fel­low­ship Award re­cip­i­ent.

Bound for the United King­dom, France and Bel­gium, Mr Flick will re­search and doc­u­ment the burial sites of In­dige­nous sol­diers who died there dur­ing WWI.

“I was hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion one day with the Aus­tralian War Me­mo­rial di­rec­tor Bren­dan Nel­son about the pho­to­graph I’d taken of a head­stone be­long­ing to Thomas Dodd from Wal­gett.

“His fam­ily were just so happy to see it and I sug­gested to Mr Nel­son we should take a photo for ev­ery In­dige­nous fam­ily who has a lost sol­dier and he thought it was a good idea.

“The aim of my project is to doc­u­ment and re­search the names of Abo­rig­i­nal sol­diers who fought in WWI. There were about 807 who went over­seas. There were nearly 1200 Abo­rig­i­nal men en­listed.

“It’s not a story that is well known, a lot of them came home, but they had a big­ger fight when they got here,” he said.

Mr Flick hopes his re­search will find recog­ni­tion for all, but es­pe­cially Abo­rig­i­nal sol­diers from around Trangie, Wal­gett, Coon­abarabran and off the mis­sions, like his “Pop”.

“They went over there to fight for free­dom and were never prop­erly recog­nised or ac­knowl­edged,” he said.

“It will help fam­i­lies start to find clo­sure. By doc­u­ment­ing their his­tory, tak­ing their en­list­ment papers and a photo of their head­stone. It will bring them back to Coun­try. It’s about bring­ing their spir­its home.

“It’s go­ing to be a jour­ney that will cer­tainly have its tears and sad­ness, but also the hap­pi­ness and joy of link­ing these fel­las back with their mob, telling them that peo­ple love them.

“It’s the same for any­one bury­ing a loved one, if you’ve never vis­ited their grave or don’t know where they’re buried, there’s no clo­sure. I’m try­ing to make that link and con­nec­tion to fam­ily and Coun­try,” he said.

Af­ter the official award cer­e­mony this week with the NSW Gov­er­nor Mar­garet Bea­z­ley, Mr Flick will en­joy din­ner at Par­lia­ment House hosted by the Churchill Fel­low­ship As­so­ci­a­tion.

“Then we do a train­ing day where we find out about the ins and outs and learn our obli­ga­tions to the fel­low­ship. There’s 25 peo­ple from NSW and 115 in to­tal from across Aus­tralia,” Mr Flick said.

Mon­day, Novem­ber 11, is Re­mem­brance Day, which com­mem­o­rates the sign­ing of the Ar­mistice which oc­curred on Novem­ber 11, 1918, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

On the first an­niver­sary of the ar­mistice in 1919, one minute’s si­lence was in­sti­tuted as part of the main com­mem­o­ra­tive cer­e­mony.

The war ser­vice of Abo­rig­i­nal sol­diers was ig­nored and for­got­ten for decades af­ter the war.

Churchill Fel­low­ship Award re­cip­i­ent Joe Flick with NSW Gov­er­nor The Honourable Mar­garet Bea­z­ley dur­ing the official award cer­e­mony at Gov­er­nor House Syd­ney last Fri­day. PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

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