Mr DULUK (Waite) (12:24):
That this house—
(a) recognises the 76th anniversary of the 1942 Bangka Strait massacre;
(b) welcomes the permanent memorial to honour the sole survivor of the massacre, South Australian Vivian Bullwinkel, and all Australian servicewomen; and
(c) honours the memory of Australian women killed in all theatres of war.
Australian servicewomen began to play a formal role in the Australian military in 1948, when the Army's nursing service was granted corps status. Prior to this, women, of course, still participated in Australian action, just not formally within the Australian military. Women's participation in the Australian military first originated in 1898, with the creation of the Australian Nursing Service's ANS of New South Wales. The ANS sent 60 nurses to the Boer War.
In the First World War, nurses again played a vital role in the Australian Imperial Force, as it was then known. Women served in Egypt, Lemnos, England, France, Belgium, Greece, Palestine, Mesopotamia and India. The Department of Defence states that 2,562 women served in the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) in conflicts abroad, and a further 423 worked in military hospitals in Australia. Unfortunately, between 1914 and 1919, 29 Australian servicewomen died on active service. Of the 2,562 servicewomen, 380 were awarded medals for their service.
In the Second World War, 3,477 women enlisted to serve in the AANS. Of those, 71 servicewomen died on active duty abroad. Let us also not forget the nurses who served in Australia and off the coast of Australia during the war, as Australia was being threatened by Japan. One such example is the horrific end of the second voyage of the hospital ship AHS Centaur from Sydney to New Guinea in May 1943. Whilst off the coast of Queensland, the Centaur was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, even though it was clearly marked as a hospital ship. Of those on board, 268 died, including 11 nurses. Of the 64 survivors, Sister Ellen Savage was the only surviving nurse.
Between 1966 and 1972, 43 nurses served in the Vietnam War. There were also 210 Australian women civilian nurses who served in volunteer medical teams through the Department of Foreign Affairs. Australian nurse, Barbara Black, is listed as one of the Australian service personnel who died on active service in Vietnam.
It is important that today, when we live in a country free of the devastation of war and terror, we recognise the ultimate sacrifice of those servicewomen in their service from the Boer War up to the conflicts that they serve in today. This motion is specifically about commemorating the 76th anniversary of the 1942 Bangka Strait massacre. Of the 71 servicewomen who died in the Second World War, 21 of those were servicewomen horrifically massacred by Japanese forces on Bangka Island in 1942.
The Bangka Strait massacre was one of the most horrific war crimes committed by the Japanese during the Second World War. In February of this year, we marked the 76th anniversary of this massacre. Vivian Bullwinkel was born on 18 December 1915 in Kapunda. She was the sole survivor of the Bangka Island massacre. Vivian had a mission to help her friends who had signed up to serve and defend Australia and she felt that she could serve both her nation and her community as a nurse.
In 1941, Vivian was assigned to the 2/13th Australian General Hospital (AGH) and sailed to Singapore. In January 1942, the 13th AGH was forced to evacuate Malaya to Singapore after the Japanese invaded the previous month. On 12 February 1942, Vivian Bullwinkel and 65 other nurses attempted to escape Singapore on board the SS Vyner Brooke. On 14 February 1942, Japanese aircraft bombed the SS Vyner Brooke.
As the ship was sinking, Bullwinkel, 21 other nurses and a number of surviving civilians swarmed onto Radji Beach on Bangka Island. One hundred British soldiers joined them on the beach the next day after their ship had also been bombed. It was agreed by everyone that there was no way to get off the island and that the only thing to do was to give themselves up. A small group of men went to find the Japanese to assist them. Japanese soldiers appeared and separated them into groups and, according to the written testimony of Vivian Bullwinkel, she stated:
They separated the men from the women in two bunches and the ship's officer tried to tell them we were
giving ourselves up as prisoners of war. They [the Japanese] just ignored us.
The Japanese soldiers forced the 22 Australian nurses, as well as one female civilian, into the water where they were shot from behind with machine gun fire. Vivian Bullwinkel had been hit but the bullet had gone through her body and she feigned death. Vivian found another survivor, Private Cecil George Kingsley, and they survived for 12 days before surrendering to the Japanese. Vivian decided not to tell her Japanese captors that she had been part of the massacre and, as they did not provide medical attention, they did not see her wound.
After arriving at Muntok gaol, Vivian told the Australian nurse what had occurred to those nursing sisters on the island. The story was written down and passed on to Colonel White, commander of the 10th AGH. Vivian Bullwinkel then spent the next 3½ years as a Japanese prisoner of war in Sumatra. The Japanese refused to recognise the Australian nurses as prisoners of war, meaning they were treated as civilian internees, and the Japanese were not following the Geneva Convention.
Thirty-two of the surviving nurses from the SS Vyner Brooke were captured and placed in POW camps, including Vivian. The nurses who were not massacred had swum and survived in the ocean for about 18 hours and arrived at different parts of the island. Eight Australian nurses died in the POW camps. Conditions in the camps were atrocious and many died from tropical disease and the effects of malnutrition. Upon her release, Vivian weighed only 25 kilograms. Only 24 of 65 nurses who were aboard the SS Vyner Brooke would survive to the end of World War II.
Vivian Bullwinkel gave evidence into Japanese war crimes at the Tokyo War Crimes Trial. As the sole survivor of the massacre she was able to let the public know what had happened to her fellow nurses and also provide answers to the families of the nurses who had died. Vivian Bullwinkel returned to Australia and lived until July 2000.
Seventy-six years after the 1942 Bangka Strait Massacre, it is important that we reflect and remember the 21 Australian nurses who died on Radji Beach, the nurses who drowned following the bombing of the boat, and the eight nurses who died at the POW camps, and to remember the sacrifice they made for Australia so that we can enjoy our freedom today.
The South Australian Women's Memorial Playing Fields were established in 1953 when former premier Sir Thomas Playford GCMG gave 20 acres of reserve land at St Marys. The playing fields are located on the corner of Shepherds Hill Road and Ayliffes Road, St Marys, in my community. Since the 1950s, that site has been used to encourage female participation in sport, as a living memorial to the nurses who were massacred at Bangka Strait Island. In 1956, the grounds were dedicated to all South Australian servicewomen who served in all theatres of war. The playing fields are the only dedicated women's memorial like it in Australia. Each year on the closest Sunday to 16 February a Bangka Day Memorial Service is held.
Once again, it was an absolute honour to be there this year together with the member for Elder, the member for Davenport and the member for Florey who were all in attendance, and many other members of parliament and, indeed, members of returned services.
I would like to thank the officeholders of the South Australian Women's Memorial Playing Field Trust Inc. for their work in honouring the memory of Bangka Island. The patron of the trust is Mrs Lan Le, the president and public officer of the trust is Bruce Parker OAM, the three vice-presidents of the trust are April Williams, John Woodberry and Rod Murray, the honourable secretary is Brenda Calder and Debbie Baker is the honourable treasurer. I would like to thank them for their work.
I am very much enjoying the work at the moment of a fundraising committee set up by Lady Mayoress Spear, from the City of Mitcham. This is a working committee of members of the trust together with the member for Elder and the member for Boothby, Nicolle Flint, to raise money for the permanent war memorial. Members of the community can make donations to the permanent memorial and jump on the website to make a contribution to that fund.
The Marshall Liberal government went to the 2018 election with a multimillion-dollar commitment to upgrading the Women's Memorial Playing Fields, which is so important. By upgrading the ovals at the playing fields and providing adequate clubrooms and change rooms, we will ensure that women's sport is improved in South Australia, as well as undertaking the important task of honouring the memory of Australian servicewomen who made the ultimate sacrifice. We are committed to grassroots sport, and this government wants to live up to the ideals of the then premier Playford in ensuring that the playing fields are a permanent memorial to the memory of Bangka Island.
The clubs that will benefit from our reinvestment in the site at the Women's Memorial Playing Fields include the Cumberland United Women's Football Club, the Sturt Lacrosse Club, the Sturt Lions Football Club, and Woods Panthers Netball Club. Hopefully, seeing about 2,000 women and boys as well participating in sport at the site reflects that permanent memorial. In terms of some of the clubs that use the site, we have the Cumberland United Women's Football Club, led by their passionate president, Paul Denton, who is a very strong advocate for the continual use of the site by its members and his club.
The Cumberland United Women's Football Club has over 230 members and was established in 1931. They became the only women's club in 2004 when they moved to the site on Shepherds Hill Road. They are the largest female-only soccer club in South Australia. They have four senior teams of 15 players, and 11 junior teams. They are an inaugural member club of the Football Federation of South Australia Women's National Premier League. The club has seen previous players represent Australia in the Matilda team and in the women's league. They are a very strong female football club.
The change rooms and the current site at the Women's Memorial Playing Fields are in much need of love and attention. There are shared amenities at the site and there are currently a lot of safety issues, including with asbestos. There is a lack of appropriate facilities for both male and female change rooms. There are no disabled-access facilities or baby change facilities at the site.
As I said, there is asbestos contamination. Also, a big issue for the user groups at the site at the moment is the lack of facilities that can be used for hosting trophy nights and presentations, and the lack of a general club feel.
It was certainly our commitment and plan that we took to the election to have that site redeveloped not only to become a multisport facility but to ensure that the user groups have appropriate facilities for growing grassroots sports participation, because one thing that we can do is support grassroots participation. I know, several weeks ago, at one of the home games for Cumberland United, they played for the Bangka trophy. As a living memorial, we certainly recognise the importance of grassroots sports.
Another one of the very important user groups is the Sturt Lacrosse Club, which was founded in 1899 and has men's, women's, and boys' and girls' teams. Originally, the club was based in Unley, but now is based at Shepherds Hill Road. They use the May Mills change rooms. Once again, they are a very proud club and have about 190 players, including 100 female and 90 male members. Another important group in my electorate that uses facilities within the City of Mitcham is the Sturt Lions Football Club. They play at Karinya Reserve and are one of the largest soccer clubs in South Australia, with over 400 players. At times, they use the Women's Memorial Playing Fields for their activities as well. When you have 400 members and so many teams, the importance of finding a permanent home is very high.
The growing demand for southern area female sports and sports facilities is only increasing, and it is vital that women and girls can participate in sport with adequate clubrooms and change rooms. As I said, part of our election commitment is to also invest in the upgrading of the existing memorial, ensuring that it remains one of the pre-eminent war memorials in Australia to Australian servicewomen. The upgrade of the Women's Memorial Playing Fields Trust and the memorial will only enhance the commemoration services in February, which go from strength to strength every year.
Since 1898 and the creation of the Australian Army Nursing Service, women have been participating in all theatres of war. From the Boer War up until now, they have sacrificed their lives for Australia and their sacrifice and the significant role they played should always be remembered.