Sadlier Stokes Prize Ceremony

Monsieur le Maire, Monsieur Didier Dinouard, distinguished guests, Ms Michelle Davis and Ms Sue Hawkey, great granddaughters of Sergeant Charles Stokes, and your husbands Darren and Tim – welcome.

Above all, I welcome the students and teachers of the primary school ‘Paul Langevin’ in Bagnolet, the Collège Jacques Prévert from Nouvion en Ponthieu and the Lycée du Saint Esprit in Beauvais

Ladies and Gentlemen,

After hearing the moving speeches and the solemn tribute to the hundreds of thousands of personnel who have fallen in war at the Australian National Memorial this morning, it is now time for us to look, with optimism, towards the future.

A future that will be brightened by the students who join us today to receive the Sadlier Stokes Prize, a legacy of Australia’s former Prime Minister Bob Hawke.

Through your research into Australia’s participation in ‘the Great War’, in these now green and peaceful fields which then saw such terrible carnage, you would have learnt of the heroism and sacrifices of those who fought in this place.

This was the foundation of our two countries relationship that sees us work together still today, to defend peace and freedom.

Through your Sadlier Stokes research projects, you are also reinforcing the special friendship between Australia and France, which was born more than a century ago — in order to build a peaceful world.

Today, we gather to remember the sacrifices of so many ordinary people, caught up in extraordinary events throughout our shared history.

Ordinary people like Lieutenant Sadlier, a twenty-five year old commercial traveller, and Sergeant Stokes, a horse driver, who both enlisted in my home state of Western Australia, and are true Australian heroes.

106 years ago today, Sadlier and Stokes, under enemy fire, bravely led their mates in a daring attack on German machine gunners, this courageous action helped clear the way for their battalion to advance and liberate Villers-Bretonneux.

Following the Great War, Lieutenant Clifford William King Sadlier VC and Sergeant Charles Albert Stokes DCM were among the tens of thousands of soldiers who returned to Australia.

Michelle and Sue, it is an honour to present the award named after your great grandfather.

Monsieur Dinouard, Mayor of Villers-Bretonneux, thank you for the warmth and sincerity of your welcome. This warmth has been reserved for many generations of Australians who have made the long pilgrimage to the battlefields of the Somme.

It is clear the community of Villers-Bretonneux has never forgotten Australia, and for this, I thank you on behalf of all Australians.

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