An interest in history and a personal connection to World War I has led to a Blackfriars student winning the highly regarded Simpson Prize.
Year 10 student Matthew Jones was last week named the South Australian winner of the national competition, which encourages participants to explore what the Anzac spirit means to Australia.
His winning essay addressed the question: “To what extent have the Gallipoli campaign and the Western Front overshadowed other significant aspects of Australians’ experience of the First World War?”
“I didn’t know I was going to be entered into the competition, as we simply completed the task for an assignment and the teachers picked the three best essays to enter into the competition,” Matthew said.
“But I did put a lot of effort into it because of both my personal interest in history and my family’s history.
Matthew’s essay discussed the Sinai-Palestine campaign, “a British endeavour to assail Ottoman and German forces through Syria”, as well as the conscription debate and the mental health of soldiers.
“These aspects deserve more prominence in the general Australians’ knowledge as they help us understand in greater depth what the war was truly like,” he wrote.
“These experiences also enable us to broaden our knowledge and understanding around the Anzac legend by giving us more and often conflicting viewpoints, and as such should not be overshadowed by the Gallipoli and Western Front campaigns.”
Matthew said it was important students today learned about, and understood, the Anzac spirit.
“The Anzac spirit is key to our national identity today,” he said.
Announcing the winners, acting Federal Education and Youth Minister Stuart Robert said the Anzac spirit was “a core part of what it means to be an Australian”.
“It is vital we foster an enduring appreciation of what the Anzacs, and all who have served since have sacrificed for our country,” Mr Robert said.
“As someone who has served Australia in uniform, it makes me proud to see Australian students so engaged and interested in the Anzac legacy.”
Past Blackfriars students to win the Simpson Prize include Khuong Nguyen, William Thomas and Andrew Tran.
The Federal Government has supported the History Teachers’ Association of Australia to organise the running of the Simpson Prize since 1998.
It is named in honour of John Simpson Kirkpatrick, who famously used a small donkey to carry men down from the front line, often exposing himself to fire.
“The bravery of this man with the donkey soon became the most prominent symbol of Australian courage and tenacity” in Gallipoli, according to the the Australian War Memorial website.