David Lawry OAM1, Glenn Williams2, Dr Darren Peacock3

1 Treenet Inc and University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia

2 Treenet Inc and University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia

3 Sociable Technology and National Trust of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia

Overview

The TREENET Avenues of Honour 1915-2015 project is a national initiative to honour with a tree the memory of every individual who has made the supreme sacrifice on behalf of all Australians.

The arboreal Avenue of Honour has been an enduring form of public commemoration of military service in Australia. More than any other nation Australians have chosen to recognise service and sacrifice through community plantings of memorial Avenues of Honour. The project is designed to document, preserve and reinstate the original Avenues of Honour and to establish new Avenues of Honour, leading up to the Centenary of World War I and through to November 11th 2018.

The Project was proposed by founding Director of TREENET, David Lawry and launched at the 5th National TREENET Symposium in 2004.

As part of her thesis, PhD candidate Sarah Cockerell recorded 567 known Avenues of Honour (AoH) across Australia, most of which remained in some form, although some were depleted or in poor condition.

These Avenues and the trees that comprise them are typically on public land and most often are managed by Local Councils.

An AoH database proposed by Ben Kenyon in 2006 aimed to develop an online resource that documented the location and current condition of each tree within an existing or future Avenue of Honour and to record the presence and condition of associated signage and plaques.

As a priority the TREENET AoH Project set out to provide a publicly accessible online resource for known Avenues, initially to be based on the research by Cockerell including basic information relating to  their purpose and date of establishment.

The personal information of each man or woman honoured would also be recorded based on or linked to existing records held by the AWM and personal accounts provided by living descendants.

It was conceived that links to all the information relating to a commemorative tree and the individual for whom it was dedicated, via an embedded QR code in each associated plaque, would provide interactive access in the field, courtesy of the digital revolution and portable devices such as smart phones and tablets.

As a first step towards an online, Wiki-based database and website, Dr Darren Peacock developed the current AoH Blog site in 2013. A priority for the Project team is to secure ongoing funding to further develop and maintain the proposed Wiki-based database and website.

The Challenge of Funding

TREENET has received no grants from government sources to date but as it has DGR (tax deductible gift recipient) status, public donations were expected to be a major source of funding. A generous donation from Active Tree Services in 2012 and 2013 made it possible for Glenn Williams to be appointed as Director of TREENET and for David Lawry to manage the AoH project.

Since September 2014 the role of Director AoH has continued on a voluntary basis.

Other sources of sponsorship are currently being pursued but one source of income is already well established.

At the launch in 2004, delegates at the 5th Symposium held in the Waite Arboretum, planted a hedge of 100 Rosemary bushes grown from cuttings collected by David Lawry in the late 1980s, whilst undertaking a landscape project at the Daw Park Repatriation Hospital.

Fig 1: Planting of the Gallipoli Rosemary hedge, TREENET Symposium 2004

During this project David was informed that the original plant was brought back to Adelaide by a wounded soldier repatriated from Gallipoli in 1915 and grown into a hedge at the Keswick barracks where it provided a source of commemorative lapel stems for the Anzac days that followed. Fearing unnecessarily the Daw Park hedge would eventually disappear it was grown and maintained in his native plant nursery until this moment in 2004 and provided the opportunity to add further significance to the simple act of a wounded digger 90 years previously.

 

Now grown and distributed by the APG group of nurseries it is expected to have raised approximately $100,000 in royalties for the Project by the end of 2015.

 

Fig 2: Label sales of the Gallipoli Rosemary governed by strict protocols to preserve the integrity, the heritage and the DNA pedigree significance of this plant of remembrance.

 

The Challenge of Location.

In many instances only remnants of original avenues remain or they have disappeared completely.

This is particularly the case in cities and towns where the original purpose of the row of trees was forgotten or intentionally overlooked to make way for development. The AoH office receives regular news of both circumstances still occurring.   Unfortunately there is very little room left along roadways for new trees except in inappropriate locations far from the original site on the distant outskirts of the urban sprawl.

In a few instances aging and neglected Avenues have been resurrected on location.

Fig 3: Weinholt Street AoH, Sherwood, QLD. [Images courtesy of A & A Rankine]

The Avenue of Honour in Weinholt Street, located in Sherwood, a western suburb of the City of Brisbane in Qld, is no exception. The Weinholt Street Avenue of Honour is lined with the beautiful long lived tree species, Callistemon ‘Dawson River’. Typical of species selected for planting in many of the Avenues of Honour throughout Australia, this species is native to the local area (Qld) and has a weeping habit which is chosen to represent the tears of the mothers of fallen soldiers in World War II.

Originally pollarded on an annual basis by the local Council, sadly the location of these trees did not spare them the unfortunate previous practice of ‘lopping' in later years for powerline clearance.

A current programme of ongoing restorative pruning carried out on behalf of power service provider, Energex, and replacement planting carried out by Brisbane City Council for a small number of trees lost in storms, has assisted greatly in the management of the Weinholt Street Avenue of Honour, ensuring that it will be enjoyed not only by current residents, but by future generations to come. The shade, habitat and dollar value that the Weinholt Street Avenue of Honour trees provide to all properties in this street is reflected in the esteem that these trees are held in by all who live in and visit the street.

In most major Cities there are magnificent locations for new Avenues of Honour along prominent roadways but they are already taken up by existing trees with many more years of useful life ahead of them. We propose that local government in consultation with their communities consider the option of reassigning these trees to the role of commemoration. This will create an AoH for the present day with a commitment to maintaining and replacing them over time with new trees that may be different species to the original but will be chosen to reflect in a stately manner the pride of their community in the fallen close to the homes of the honouree.

In South Australia one such prominent roadway is Anzac Highway formerly the 12 km long Bay Road linking the city with Glenelg. It is not an Avenue of Honour but was renamed in 1923 in Honour of the Anzacs as it also passes the WW1 sites of Keswick Barracks and the Morphettville racecourse where an enlistment camp was established. The link has been strengthened by the local Highways Department naming of the Gallipoli Underpass at the South Rd intersection.

Aside from a median strip planting of Ficus hillii (Hill’s Fig) and Washingtonia fillifera (Desert Fan Palm) there are approximately 800 Fraxinus raywoodii (Claret Ash) lining the north and south verges managed by the City Councils of Unley, West Torrens and Holdfast Bay. Some interest has already been expressed in rededicating these trees for commemoration and subsequent replacement in an AoH management plan.

All councils in major cities have thousands of trees to maintain and hundreds of soldiers to commemorate and without moving off the roadway this seems to be the only option remaining.

On the other hand an emerging option for Avenues is to plant them in parks.

This was very much a favourite location in the years following WW1. Kings Park in Perth, the recently restored Soldiers walk in Hobart and Yeronga Memorial Park in Brisbane are prime examples.

Most recently, with the assistance of Peter Bishop, who was inspired by the vision of the TREENET Project, a brand new park-based Avenue of Honour, Samford Memorial Avenue, was dedicated on Anzac Day 2015.

The Samford RSL Sub-Branch in partnership with the Samford Lions Club, Rotary Club of Samford Valley and the Moreton Bay Regional Council delivered this significant community project over a 3 year project period.

Fig 4. Proposal taking shape, March 2014                                                                                 Fig 4. Newly dedicated Samford Memorial Avenue, ANZAC Day 2015
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             [Images courtesy Peter Bishop]

Challenge of identifying Honourees

The internet and a considerable body of research at the Australian War Memorial have made the service records of most of the fallen readily accessible. However it is almost impossible to confidently assign all eligible honourees to particular local government areas based solely on place of birth or enlistment. Furthermore honour boards are often incomplete or link the honouree with an organisation such as a church or school which may be in another town. The RSL SA Branch is undertaking a massive task to tell the stories of all the fallen on their virtual Honour board which like the TREENET AoH project has most of its work before it.

The most reliable source of information regarding the fallen is provided by the growing number of amateur historians researching WW1 in particular, perhaps for publication in their name or for open access on the internet. Any proposal to set up a new Avenue should be in consultation with the History Trust and its widespread fraternity.

TREENET hopes that descendants of the fallen will be able to contribute the stories about their relatives, as handed down over the years, for access via the proposed Wiki-website.

A TREENET Pilot Project based in the City of Port Adelaide Enfield is trialling a model for the wider creation of new Avenues in other locations around Australia in the years ahead.

Fifty Eight individuals from the Port area, colloquially named “Portonians” died in service in 1914 and 1915 and over the next month, 58 trees will be planted by the Council in their honour. In 2016 more trees will be planted for those who died in 1916. Through the remarkable research over 20 years by local historian Helen Myhill, the names, war records and personal details of over 500 WW1 Portonians are known and will form the basis of an annual dedication of new trees as each centenary year passes. The City also wants to honour those from the Enfield district and TREENET is currently investigating the names and details of the “Enfieldians” in order to plan avenues for them.

The likelihood is that in Port Adelaide Enfield alone 600 or 1% of the 60,000 Australians who perished in WW1 will be honoured with a tree.

The model is based on an appreciation of how the hundreds of Avenues around Australia came into existence in the first place.

They were always the result of local, largely voluntary endeavour, led by key community groups such as women’s auxiliaries, progress associations and returned servicemen. Fuelled by the collective grief of thousands of families anxious to have their loved ones remembered in perpetuity donations poured in, both in cash and in kind.

Inevitably there were community champions working closely with elected local government members and staff to promote and coordinate the installation of trees and plaques and to arrange a dedication ceremony worthy of the occasion.

The Pilot Project follows this tradition but with a broader intent of inspiring others to follow with the support of TREENET.

Central to the success of the Port Project are the arborists and horticulturalists employed by the council who ultimately have responsibility for maintaining the greenery along roadsides and in parks. This is business as usual for any council manager of tree assets and the proportion of trees in their care that would be memorial trees is very small.

The City of Port Adelaide Enfield have committed to constructing a memorial space adjacent to Alberton Oval,centred on a Lone Pine seedling supplied by TREENET. This will be dedicated in a public ceremony on September 25th in recognition of the commitment made by all contributors to the project and the sacrifice of the 500 Portonians. Through September the council will plant 58 Brachychiton rupestris (Bottle Tree) each side of the pathway through Westport Park in preparation for future assignment to honourees as public donations are received. It is hoped that all 58 soldiers will be assigned a tree along the pathway in chronological order of their passing.

However, engaging the community in planning and implementing an AoH, is not business as usual for local government and that is the primary motivation for the City of Port Adelaide/Enfield in participating in the trial.

Already significant community promotion is underway due to the efforts of the Port Adelaide Football Club as Project Ambassadors. This community engagement strategy presents an opportunity for individuals and families to make a tax deductible donation of $200 to have a tree planted and a soldier honoured in this pilot project.

This will ensure that for the life of this inaugural Project, TREENET will be able to:

  • Offer its established national Avenues of Honour leadership, expertise and management;
  • Liaise with the Semaphore Port Adelaide RSL Sub-branch, the Port Adelaide Football Club and other stakeholders;
  • Raise the $10,600 in donations that will be fund the roll out of the 2014/2015 Avenue;
  • Engage and participate directly with community including schools;
  • Use the Avenues of Honour blog-site and other forms of social media to publicly profile each WW1 honouree , allowing community to follow, support and develop the capture of history and individual stories;
  • Assist in the arrangements for private or civic functions around acknowledgement of benefactors and tree-planting ceremonies, including supply of Gallipoli Rosemary and donor certificates;
  • Provide national recognition of the Port Adelaide Avenue of Honour through registration with TREENET’s established, national Avenues of Honour initiative and the Australian National Trusts Register of Significant Trees;
  • Test and review the project model of funding & community engagement for national implementation.

Following its launch on the PAFC website for ANZAC Day 2015 it is anticipated the Project will be completed well before Armistices Day on November 11th 2015.

Following a review of the trial outcome it is hoped that eventually all those from the district who served and fell in WW1 will be honoured with a tree, believed to be an Australian first for any local government area.

Finally a new Vision

Until recently the focus for the TREENET AoH Project has been only on Avenues within Australia.

With the major investment in a National Museum for the Western Front at Villers Brettoneux an opportunity to establish an Avenue of Honour for the 50,000 Australians killed in France and Belgium is a tantalizing prospect.

Based on only one tree for 100 soldiers it would be approximately 5 km long with 500 trees planted on both sides of a roadway at 20 m intervals linking the Australian War memorial with the village where the promise to ‘never forget the Australians’ is the motto at the primary school.

The Remembrance Trail being established is much more extensive and could provide room for 5000 trees, 10 names on each for example.

There are many potential benefits for both Nations as thousands of Australians make the pilgrimage each year and will understand the powerful message about peace that a tree standing for sacrifice can make.