The annual Headmaster’s ANZAC Assembly is a special occasion that draws on the College’s rich tradition of Old Boys defending our country in peace-time and war.

It is a time to reflect on the sacrifices of generations of men and women who have served Australia with distinction.

This year, the assembly at Br Emilian Hall featured a speech from Head of Boarding John Reading and keynote address from Captain Jake Finnane (2014), Squadron Second in Command, at the Third Combat Engineering Regiment in Townsville.

The ceremony began with a solemn procession of national flags carried by Year 12 students Declan O’Brien, Miles Minto, Jordan Gartside and Curtis Wise-Lancaster, and the laying of wreaths by Headmaster Mr Michael Blake, Captain Finnane and Edward Wheen (Y12).

In both world wars, a combined total of 1242 Joeys Old Boys enlisted to fight for their country. Of these, 124 lost their lives. It was an Old Boy who paid the ultimate sacrifice that Mr Reading made the subject of his speech.

Headmaster Mr Michael Blake, Captain Jake Finnane (2014) and Edward Wheen (Y12) lay wreaths.

Lieutenant Niall Mullarkey (1913) was admired and revered at Joeys. He captained the First XV and First XI, was elected secretary of the St Vincent de Paul Society and earnt a Veterinary Science scholarship to the University of Sydney.

Such was his selfless character that upon declaration of war in 1914, he enlisted to serve his country. Rapidly promoted to lieutenant, Mullarkey immediately distinguished himself as a leader, bravely extricating his men from dangerous situations and winning praise from his superiors. Tragically, he lost his life in action near the village of Flers in France on 5 November 1916.

Mr Reading told students that Mullarkey was a Joe-Boy just like them – a young man with the same hopes and dreams: “Niall sat in our classrooms, played on our fields, walked on our stairs and laughed with his mates in the dorms.”

“War now carries longer-lasting consequences far greater than anything we’ve encountered previously.”

Captain Jake Finnane

For well over a century Old Boys such as Captain Jake Finnane (2014) and Lieutenant Niall Mullarkey (1913) have served the Australian military with distinction.

His touching story brought home how fortunate our boys are that students from previous generations gave their lives so that we could live freely and in peace today.

“Niall had the world at his feet after graduating from Joeys, and served and died on the battle field in the fight for freedom,” Mr Reading said.

Captain Finnane spoke eloquently and with great sensitivity about the tragedy of war, and asked us not to forget the soldiers who returned, many permanently scarred by what they had seen and experienced. He also warned us not to be complacent – that the price of peace is indeed eternal vigilance. He cited the war in Ukraine as an example of the need to be prepared to defend liberty across the world.

“Old photos in black and white black and stories written by authors whose voices we will never hear may mislead us into thinking war is a thing of the past.” But as we have seen in Ukraine, “war now carries longer-lasting consequences far greater than anything we’ve encountered previously.”

Captain Jake Finnane (2014) asked us all to be vigilant in the maintenance of peace.

Australia’s military history is centred on the ANZAC legend. It serves to define our character as a nation – the bravery, mateship and resilience displayed in WWI continues to inspire more than 100 years later. Captain Finnane expressed his admiration for the original ANZAC soldiers and their defence of our way of life, but stressed the Australian military should always be forward-looking organisation.

“In reality, the actions of The Australian Defence Force are not constrained by the past tense. They have never stopped. The past is only one facet of the ever-developing story of Australia.”

During the ceremony the conciliatory words of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, were projected on the display screens. His reference to the dead at Gallipoli and enduring message of the brotherhood of man gave boys the opportunity to reflect on the nature of forgiveness.

“There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours… your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.”

A moving rendition of Flanders Fields sung by Hamish Stewart (Y12) and Rafferty Allison’s (Y12) playing of the Last Post rounded out proceedings.

Lest we forget.