2019 Saumarez Homestead Commemorative Conference

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Peter Hoare and Christine Fry share some details about the upcoming 2019 Saumarez Commemorative Conference, to be held at Saumarez Homestead on April 26 and 27 …

What can you tell us about the upcoming 2019 Saumarez Commemorative Conference?

The conference commemorates the centenary of the Armistice. Its title is New England and the Great War Memories – Remembrance and explores the aftermath of the First World War in the New England district. It will be held on the 26th and 27th April, at the Saumarez Homestead in Armidale and will commemorate the Armistice of November 1918 and the return of the members of the Australian Imperial Force to the New England district.  

The conference will evoke the memories of these events and examine the importance of the homefront in Armidale, the Armistice, the Armidale peace celebrations in 1919, the Spanish Influenza pandemic, the War Memorials in the New England district and school children’s literature in the immediate post war period.  

The logo of the Conference is taken from a photograph of the Saumarez Homestead, at Armidale, decorated for the return of Lt. Colonel Harold White, the elder son of the owners of the Saumarez pastoral property. Harold White joined the Australian Imperial Force in April 1916 as a major in the 33rd Battalion. He served in France from 1916 and was badly wounded in 1917. Harold White was promoted to Lt. Colonel in April 1918 and commanded the 35th Battalion in the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux. He was highly decorated and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, Croix de Guerre (France) and Commander of St Michael and St George. After his discharge from the AIF in March 1919, Harold White returned to his pastoral property at Bald Blair, near Guyra. He lived until 1971 and was well known in his district for scientific pastoral improvements, local government and community charities.  

The conference has been divided into several events.  

On Friday 26th April, the conference will open with a museum display workshop on the Great War and its aftermath for museum gallery workers. The aim of the workshop is to develop the skills to mount a display on the effects of the Great War in our communities. The workshop will be held from 9:30am until 4:30pm and costs $20. At 6pm the conference will be officially opened with a reception at the Saumarez Conference Centre. At 8am on Saturday 27th April, a service will be held in front of the Saumarez Homestead to commemorate the soldiers from the New England district, especially those from the Saumarez and Arding communities. The conference will follow the service, with registration at 9am, and starting at 9:30.

Our guest speakers for the conference include: Nathan Wise – The Armistice and Australian Memory of the Great War; Bronwyn Clarke – WWI Fashion and Social Change; John Atchison – Legacy in the New England District; Graham Wilson – The Home Front in Armidale, Guyra & Uralla; Peter Hobbins – Healthy troops for a healthy nation; Peter Hobbins – An intimate pandemic: the influenza scourge of 1919; Heather Voskuyl – Children’s Literature in the Great War.

Where can we find out further info? 

More information can be found on the Saumarez Homestead webpage under “events” and on Facebook or by contacting Les Davis, the property manager of Saumarez Homestead, for details at: saumarez@nationaltrust.com.au 

We are asking that interested people respond by 14th April on Trybooking, or by email to saumarez@nationaltrust.com.au or by mail to P.O. Box 33 Armidale 2350. 

What other activities will support the conference? 

The conference is also supported by a museum display at the Saumarez Conference Centre on the Great War and its Aftermath. This has been curated by Rachael Parsons, the Director of the New England Regional Art Museum, and will be open until 30th April.    

The museum display will be open for visitors at lunch time on the day of the conference. On 27th and 28th  April, the regular tours of the house will be held at 10:30am, 2pm and 3:30pm and will discuss the role of the White Family in the Great War and its aftermath and will also include a short introduction to the museum display. 

An art competition for local primary school children is also being held on the themes of the Armistice and remembrance commemoration of the War. The winning entries will be displayed at the Armidale Regional Library in May.  

How much does it cost to register?

The cost for the conference will be $30, and a light lunch and morning and afternoon teas are included. Bookings and tickets are available at Trybooking https://www.trybooking.com/BACDH 

Why do you feel it’s important for locals to attend? 

The conference gives us a chance to acknowledge the service and sacrifice that local service men and women gave to the Australian war effort and to reflect on the human cost that local communities paid in this war. Over 480,000 Australian men volunteered for overseas service in the AIF, as well as many other women who served as nurses in the Middle East, on the Western Front and in Britain. 

The conference reminds us that Armidale and the New England contributed greatly to the Australian war effort. The Armidale war memorial fountain in the Central Park records the names of 882 men who served in the AIF and 12 Army nurses. At the time, the population of the Armidale district was about 5,500 people. In the period from 1914 – 1918, the district raised over 73,000 pounds for war charities, including the British and Australian Red Cross, comfort funds for the members of the AIF, war orphans in Belgium and repatriation funds for wounded members of the AIF. 

The soldiers and nurses who came back found a warm welcome, but they also had to fit into a very different community. Many soldiers had been wounded, and they needed to learn to re-establish themselves in their town. The Influenza pandemic had occurred in the district, and civilians and soldiers alike became ill. 

One hundred years has passed since the end of the Great War. The conference honours those who served and provides an opportunity to learn more life in the local community in the post war period.

Thanks everyone.

Interview: Jo Robinson.

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