St Joseph’s College Old Boys have a long and distinguished history of service in Australia’s defence forces. From the Boer War to Afghanistan, they have fought to preserve peace and liberty across the world – sometimes paying the ultimate price. It is this sacrifice – and the sacrifice of all our men and women who have served in conflict – that the College honours at the ANZAC Headmasters Assembly.

This year’s assembly, held in Brother Emilian Hall, began with a solemn procession of flags. Students carried the Australian, New Zealand, Aboriginal and French standards  – College graduates from New Caledonia participated in World War I – to the centre of the stage where wreaths of poppies, crocheted by the Joeys community, were laid in tribute.

The reverential tone continued with a moving rendition of In Flanders Fields, sung by Hamish Stewart (Y11) and Rafferty Allison’s (Year 11) playing of The Last Post.

Headmaster Mr Ross Tarlinton, Matthew Homann (Y7), Mr Luke Homann (1991) and Long Tan Teamwork & Leadership award recipient Jack Walkom (Y11).

In both world wars, a combined total of 1242 Joe Boys enlisted to fight for their country. Of these, 124 sacrificed their lives. It was this theme of sacrifice that Headmaster Ross Tarlinton pursued in his address, urging students to recognise the selfless commitment our armed forces continue to make in protecting our country.

Keynote speaker, Old Boy Luke Homann (1991) served as an officer in the army from 1994 to 2007, commanding platoons in the Third Batallion Regiment, Australia’s most decorated infantry unit, and leading troops in the East Timor conflict. He said that the lessons he learnt at Joeys help prepared him for life on the front line. “Being a Joe Boy is like a brotherhood where everyone helps each other – and it’s the same in the military.”

“Being a Joe Boy is like a brotherhood where everyone helps each other – and it’s the same in the military.”

He listed teamwork, mateship and service as the three great Joeys values that sustained him during military service. But he stressed that mateship isn’t just about enjoying good times, it’s also about coming to your mate’s aid when he’s down. He placed particular emphasis on service and how the Marist principle of lending a hand to those less fortunate informed his overseas deployments. “In East Timor, we were tasked with restoring peace to all these people who were scared and shattered. But we also started up a school teaching English and helped with medical treatment.

Former Australian Army platoon commander Mr Luke Homann lays a wreath during the ANZAC Day Headmasters Assembly.

“There are always people worse off than ourselves and if we can help other people get a leg up and get the stability they need, that is one of the most admirable things you can do.”

The battle of Long Tan in 1966 is a landmark moment in Australia’s military history. Despite being outnumbered 10 to 1, the Delta Company Regiment defeated North Vietnamese forces in enemy terrain. The Diggers’ bravery, teamwork and endurance have come to symbolise the best traits of the Australian soldier. The ADF Long Tan Long Tan Youth Leadership & Teamwork Awards recognises students who have displayed these characteristics in their school and the broader community. Year 11 student Jack Walkom is the 2020 recipient. He was presented with the award by Mr Homann. Clearly humbled by the occasion, Jack said: “It really means a lot to be recognised with the same qualities as those men who served over there.”

Mr Homann observed that leadership is something all Joeys boys can aspire to, but underlined the need to remain modest at all times.

“There are two key things,” he said. “You need humility – you never want to be prouder than the people you are leading; and you need to be serving them, not them serving you.”
Words that all Joe-Boys can live by.

A one-minute silence remembering those servicemen and women who died in combat rounded out the assembly, as students reflected on the meaning of ANZAC Day and the sacrifices of their forebears.

Lest we forget.