Heroes' Avenue Centenary Commemoration.
Heroes' Avenue Centenary Commemoration. Jorja McDonnell

One hundred years of remembrance in Roma

BOTTLE trees lining the streets of Roma are omnipresent today, a large living memorial for local soldiers who have died in battles far from the wide streets, shaded with their memory.

Today marks a century of the aptly-named Heroes' Avenue, when on this day, our town planted the first of many trees in memory of young men who never returned from Gallipoli, France, and Belgium, where their bodies remain.

Dignitaries from the RSL and governemnt made speeches and laid wreathes at the ceremony, and Governor of Queensland, Paul de Jersey, unveiled new plaques for the memorial.

This is the Governor's first visit to Roma, and his wife Kay joined him for the trip.

Queensland Governor Paul de Jersey AC unveils the new plaques for Heroes' Avenue alongside Roma RSL sub-branch President George Mehay.
Queensland Governor Paul de Jersey AC unveils the new plaques for Heroes' Avenue alongside Roma RSL sub-branch President George Mehay. Jorja McDonnell

Leading the crowd in prayer, Fr Jamie Collins reflected on a recent visit to the Australian War Memorial in a moving speech.

"Last Wednesday I went with students from St John's and St Patrick's to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

"The director of the memorial was addressing the National Press Club that day, regarding the closing phases of the centenary celebrations marking the various battles of the First World War.

"He highlighted the foresight of Charles Bean in establishing the Australian War Memorial, to honour those who serves and gave their lives in the First World War.

"Of course, the War Memorial has evolved to honour all who served, and given of their lives in all conflicts which Australians have been involved.

"In a similar way today, we honour the foresight of our forebears in establishing Heroes' Avenue, as a living tribute to all from our local area who have paid the supreme sacrifice, so we may enjoy the way of life that we do here in Roma.

"When our young citizens left us from here to go to war, to them it may have seemed like a small contribution in something much larger than themselves.

"Yet like the smallest of all seeds, their sacrifice has been the largest of all.

"They will not grow old, as long as these bottle trees continue to stand in their honour.”

Fr Jamie Collins speaking at the Heroes' Avenue Centenary.
Fr Jamie Collins speaking at the Heroes' Avenue Centenary. Jorja McDonnell

Speaking at the commemoration, his first visit to Roma, Queensland Governor Paul de Jersey AC complimented the Light Horse Brigade on their presentation and praised the town for keeping Heroes' Avenue alive.

"Days like these are not only an opportunity to recognise the countless contributions the regions make to the advancement and prosperity of our state; they're also incredibly helpful for us n gaining a better understanding of the challenges you are dealing with.

"It's heartening to have heard that despite the drought which has been plaguing the region for so long, the people of Roma and the Maranoa stick together and remain firmly focussed on the future.

"They show what it means to be Queenslanders, standing united in the face of adversity, remaining optimistic, and displaying resilience.

"Queenslanders don't give up easily and they act accordingly,” he said.

"And so, one hundred years and two days ago, on September 20th, 1918, the people of Roma assembled at this location to honour their sons who had fallen on a battlefield thousands of kilometres from home...

"A century on, monuments like Heroes' Avenue live on to remind us of the sacrifice they made so we could live in freedom...

"These men are heroes and they are forever in our hearts; their lives lives on.

"Thank you for allowing us to be a part of this proud moment, this is a centenary to celebrate.”

The first of it's kind, Heroes' Avenue is a heritage-listed memorial, and has grown over the past century to span most of Roma's CBD.


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