An Evocative Ceremony for a Native Australian

20 Nov 2015
By Ted Uren

Friday November 13th 2015 saw a moving ceremony take place at St Lawrence Church. Our special Service of remembrance on Friday 13th November 2015 was a most moving occasion. It commemorated the life and Army service history of Private Joseph Knight of the 13th Battalion Australian Infantry, who died of pneumonia in the local isolation hospital in February 1917. Hewas one of 3 brothers, all from an Aboriginal family from Bourke, New South Wales. The congregation included Mrs Kay Bridson and children from Stratford C of E School, our MP Mr John Glen, Councillor John Walsh, senior Australian and British Army officers, and Mr Joseph Flick and Mr Steven Howarth from community support organisations in NSW. Mr Howarth is a great nephew of Joseph Knight.

After a review of Joseph’s life, and the contribution made by Aboriginal peoples to the Australian forces who fought in the First World War,we heard Bible readings selected by his family and joined the children of Stratford C of E School in singing ‘Advance Australia Fair’ and ‘God Save the Queen’. We then went to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission area, by the memorial cross of sacrifice in St Lawrence Churchyard, to lay a wreath to Joseph’s memory. The ceremony in the War Graves area was powerfully evocative and took us all by surprise. Private Joseph Knight’s gravestone was marked by the official Aboriginal flag, the photo (courtesy of Michael  Ford) shows Mr Howarth placing the flag on the gravestone. The volunteer schoolchildren made a circle around the war graves in bright sunshine. Mr Joseph Flick stepped forward to lay a wreath against the grave stone and we observed two minutes silence. The brisk westerly breeze snapped at the Union Jack on the church tower and carried autumn leaves through the our circle of children, visitors, and congregation, all against a background of a wild Turner sky with promises of stormy weather to come. We went slowly back into church to relax and talk over coffee, reflecting on a truly memorable experience and a very special day in the life of church, school, and community.