At the statue of the grieving mother, under the shadow of the Arch of Victory, Ballarat had a moment to reflect on the toll taken on families of those killed in war.
The Sunday afternoon service to remember Legacy families was held in the lead up to the 2018 Ballarat Annual Legacy Appeal, which will launch on Thursday.
Ballarat Barbara Dean – who read a poem at the service she’d written about her grandmother’s anguish of losing a son in war – said there few poems about the experiences of mothers dealing with loss due to war.
“You’re talking about human beings, and human emotions, and families and love, and all those things. War is the antithesis of all of that, and yet these people gave up so much,” she said. “Mothers are often not remembered, because the men go to war, in those times, yet it was the women that suffered and fathers too old to go.”
Master of Ceremonies Ken Fleming said the placement of the statue was symbolic, looking at the Arch of Victory over a pool of water “representing the oceans which our soldiers, sailors and nurses have traveled” to reach the battlefields.
“Today, we have remembered the struggle, the anxiety and grief of mothers in nation,” he said during his address. “We now dedicate ourselves to the cause of justice, freedom and peace, and for the wisdom and strength to build a better world.”
Despite her grandmother dying when she was 14, Ms Dean said she’d heard a lot about her great-uncle Gordon Bishop who died in World War One, and the way her grandmother “never stopped grieving”.
“He was the middle of five children, he received a letter when he was too young to enlist in Ballarat, and he thought he’d go to Melbourne and put his age up, as so many of them seemed to do. And then he went,” she said.
“He kept this little tiny diary, and the last entry was, ‘We’ve heard we go to France tomorrow.’ And he was killed in his first battle.”
Legacy is an Australian organisation, established in 1923 by ex-servicemen, to care for the families of deceased Australian service men and women.