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Previous Ministers' releases and speeches - Senator The Hon. Michael Ronaldson

Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC
Special Minister of State

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Saturday, 9 November 2013
VA013

AUSTRALIAN WWI LEGACY UNVEILED IN BELGIUM

Australian visitors to Belgium seeking a military history experience are set to benefit from a new interpretive centre that opened in Ploegsteert, Belgium today.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson, said the interpretive centre, Plugstreet 14-18 experience, depicts the experiences of soldiers and civilians in the Ploegsteert area during the First World War.

The Australian Government contributed €250,000 (approximately 355,000 AUD) towards the development of the centre, in a funding partnership with Belgian authorities and the European Union to commemorate the ‘Great War’.

"The centre’s cutting-edge digital displays tell the story of Australia’s first large-scale action in Belgium, the June 1917 Battle of Messines," Minister Ronaldson said.

"The Third and Fourth Australian Divisions, alongside the New Zealand Division and supported by British troops, played a key role in the week-long battle, the success of which prepared the way for the opening of the Third Battle of Ypres six weeks later.

"Australian and British soldiers alike commonly referred to Ploegsteert as ‘Plugstreet’, a title that still resonates today and is reflected in the centre’s name."

Australia suffered some 6,800 casualties, killed and wounded in the Battle, 78 of whom lie in the nearby Toronto Avenue Cemetery, the only all-Australian cemetery in Belgium, and one of only two all-Australian cemeteries on the entire Western Front.

Australia’s Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg, the European Union and NATO, Mr Duncan Lewis AO DSC CSC, represented the Australian Government at the opening.

"As we approach Remembrance Day, it is fitting that this significant tribute to Australian service is unveiled for all to see," Mr Lewis said.

The centre sits within Ploegsteert Wood, adjacent to the Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing and marks the completion of the final part of the Australian Remembrance Trail along the Western Front site in Belgium.

The Australian Remembrance Trail along the Western Front is a commemorative trail highlighting key sites along the Western Front that allows visitors to interpret the Australian experience of war. An overview of Australian Remembrance Trail sites is available at www.ww1westernfront.gov.au

Media Note: A media backgrounder on the Australian Remembrance Trail is available from the DVA Media Centre www.dva.gov.au/about-dva/media-centre.

Media inquiries:
Minister Ronaldson: Brad Rowswell 02 6277 7820 or 0417 917 796
Department of Veterans’ Affairs Media: 02 6289 6203

 

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) and Veterans Line can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free and confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046

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