Recent Anzac Day commemorations marked the centenary of the Gallipoli landings across the length and breadth of the State. For all of us these events were an opportunity to take pause from our busy lives and to consider the values that Anzac Day has come to represent: sacrifice, valour and mateship, the great spirit of putting others first, and looking out for one another. In the Summer Hill electorate Anzac commemorations took many forms: the unveiling of the refurbished Haberfield Roll of Honour, the Tales from the Past event at the Addison Road Community Centre; moving services in Ashfield and Petersham; and the remarkable Marrickville Remembersevents in the heart of Marrickville.
Marrickville Rememberswas a truly community-led experience, with an expansive program of commemorative events rivalling any other. It was on a scale fitting our task: to pay tribute to the 6,500 Marrickville men who enlisted in the First World War, which was one-tenth of the area's population at the time, and to remember the 670 of them who did not return home to their family, friends and community. Marrickville Remembersincluded a series of lectures and films, the acclaimed Marrickville Soldiers Exhibition, and a Commemorative March culminating in an Anzac service and civic reception in the newly refurbished forecourt of Marrickville Town Hall. More than 1,000 participants marched down Marrickville Road cheered on by thousands of community members. They came from our RSL sub-branches, local schools, operational military corps, bands, emergency services and community groups, and joined vintage vehicles and re-enactment troupes—there was even a caravan of camels.
The parade proudly reflected the rich multiculturalism of Marrickville. The Marching Koalas and the Clan McLeod Pipe Band, marched alongside the Athena School, Turkish Women's Community Group and the Rallis School of Greek Dance, to name but a few. Students from Marrickville, Petersham, Stanmore and St Peters public schools wore elaborate paper costumes designed by Julie Lynch and based on the Lighthorse Brigade, Flying Corps, Camel Corps, Navy and Red Cross—and they looked fantastic. The march finished at Town Hall, where the crowds gathered for the much-anticipated unveiling of the new Winged Victory statue. The story of Marrickville's Winged Victory is a long and enchanting one, full of personalities and politics—but now one that has a happy ending.
Since 2008 the pillar atop the World War I memorial outside the Town Hall remained sadly bare—a Marrickville icon was missing. The original sculpture, created by Gilbert Dobel, was inspired by Greek mythology—a figure of Nike, the goddess of victory—and was unveiled before a crowd of 15,000 on 24 May 1919. She is the largest known bronze casting in Australia, standing over four metres tall, and is one of the most significant World War I monuments. She stood majestically, holding a laurel wreath of peace in one hand and a raised sword in the other. But lightning and storm damage saw her removed in 1962. Placed in council storage, her lower half was later discarded. It was not until the bicentennial celebrations that funding was found to restore and return her to her rightful position atop the pillar.
Yet after 20 years in situ again the Winged Victory was taken down due to her fragile state. She was deemed no longer suitable for outdoor display. Upon becoming Mayor of Marrickville, one of the first things I did was to visit her in the council depot, where she stood sadly next to the dog cages. Fortunately, the Anzac Centenary council presented Marrickville Council with an opportunity to find her a new home and also reinstate our community icon. The Australian War Memorial was searching for a centrepiece for one of the final rooms in its new World War I galleries and approached the council to transfer ownership of the sculpture to it. The decision was an emotional one for the people of Marrickville but we can now be proud that our original Winged Victory takes pride of place in the War Memorial in Canberra, testament to our place in Australian history, and it will be seen by thousands of schoolchildren each and every year.
As mayor I had the privilege of commissioning a new sculpture for Marrickville. Artists Peter Corlett and Darien Pullen envisioned a new Winged Victory, cast in clay and then bronze—a breathtaking work of art that not only honours the original but also evokes a more peaceful future. A few days before the official unveiling of the new statue a small crowd gathered to see her winched into place by nervous contractors. Marrickvillians set down their shopping bags, cars pulled to the side of the road, and all eyes turned upwards as the statue swung across the sky and eventually touched down into place. At the official unveiling on Sunday 19 April it was hard not to feel that you were a part of history. She is spectacular. Afterwards the crowds enjoyed morning tea, including 15,000 Anzac biscuits, and sipped our very own Winged Victory beer made by Young Henrys. I congratulate Marrickville Council and its partners and thank them for coordinating Marrickville Remembers 2015.