Book Launch: Boroondara Remembers

On Saturday 11 April our latest history Boroondara Remembers: Stories of World War I was launched along with the City of Boroondara’s ‘Gallipoli and Beyond’ events program. Way Back When was thrilled to attend this auspicious occasion as part of commemorations of the centenary of World War I.

The Hawthorn Arts Centre was packed with local residents, historians, community members, politicians, families and friends, all keen to participate and strengthen their connection to our shared past.

Way Back When was engaged to write a history of how the residents of the City of Boroondara (including the suburbs of Ashburton, Balwyn, Balwyn North, Camberwell, Canterbury, Deepdene, Hawthorn, Hawthorn East, Kew, Kew East, and parts of Glen Iris, Mont Albert and Surrey Hills) experienced WWI on the home front. The resulting publication, Boroondara Remembers: Stories of World War I, includes family stories from local residents, such as the story of Edward Slade, a 32 year old bricklayer and father of three from Kew, who enlisted in February 1916. During his service in the AIF, Edward wrote letters home to his wife and three young daughters, which have been treasured by his grandchildren Isabel Harkensee and Kevin Saunders. Edward’s letters are heartbreaking to read:

 Dear little Annie,
Mummy said in one of her letters that you had forgotten what I am like. It is a long time now since we said good bye, but my hopes are that it will not be very long before we remember each other again…

Thankfully, Edward survived the war and returned home to his family three years later. We had the privilege of meeting Edward’s grandchildren and capturing Edward’s story in this history. His is just one of many stories of the ordinary men, women and children who lived in the city of Boroondara during World War I and experienced the hardships and community spirit of the time.

Authors Fiona Poulton (L) and Lucy Bracey (R) with local resident Isabel Harkensee (centre) who was one of many Boroondara residents who shared their WWI stories with Way Back When for this project.

Authors Fiona Poulton (L) and Lucy Bracey (R) with local resident Isabel Harkensee (centre) who was one of many Boroondara residents who shared their WWI stories with Way Back When for this project.

The book was launched by the Mayor of Boroondara, Cr Coral Ross, who spoke about the project with great sensitivity and compassion. The full version of her speech can be found here.  In closing, Cr Ross said:

There will be many histories written for the centenary of Gallipoli. But I would encourage you to read this one – it is a deeply personal local history and we are all the richer for knowing about the lives of these Boroondara ANZACS.

The Federal Member for Kooyong, the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, was also in attendance and spoke passionately about the centenary of WWI and the City of Boroondara's work to commemorate it. 

Authors Alicia Cerreto, Fiona Poulton, Katherine Sheedy and Lucy Bracey with Hon Josh Frydenberg MP. 

Authors Alicia Cerreto, Fiona Poulton, Katherine Sheedy and Lucy Bracey with Hon Josh Frydenberg MP. 

The launch of this publication marked the beginning of a series of events the City of Boroondara is hosting to commemorate the Anzac Centenary. The full list of activities can be found on their website. Copies of Boroondara Remembers: Stories from World War I are available for purchase from the website above through the City of Boroondara. 

This is just the beginning of Way Back When's involvement with projects commemorating the centenary of WWI, so stay tuned for more stories of Victorians at war.

Lucy Bracey