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Govt to give $100,000 for Maru memorial

The day a nation acknowledged its gratitude


TODAY IS A big day for many hundreds of people who have a connection with the Japanese invasion of the New Guinea Islands in January 1942 and the subsequent sinking of the prison ship, the Montevideo Maru.

Because today, for the first time, the Australian parliament will formally acknowledge the tragic sequence of events on behalf of the nation.

About 350 veterans and relatives gather in Canberra this afternoon as parliament honours military personnel and civilians who died as a result of the New Guinea Islands conflict in World War II.

It will be a fine but cold winter’s day in the national capital, but the atmosphere inside parliament will warm, welcoming and infused with a sense of excitement and joy.

Many people, especially the relatives of those who died, have waited a long time for this day – and for the recognition it will convey from a grateful nation.

At about 3.30 pm, Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel Minister, Alan Griffin, will get to his feet in the House of Representatives to make a major ministerial statement. Some surprises are expected.

Later, a historic private members’ motion will be debated a bit after 7 pm. The same resolution will pass through the Senate later in the evening.

In between, about 400 people will gather in parliament’s Queens Terrace Gallery for a ministerial reception.

Rabaul fell to the Japanese forces on 24 January 1942 and the Montevideo Maru was torpedoed off the Philippines, with the loss of over 1,000 lives, on 1 July 1942 in what ermains as Australia's greatest disaster at sea.

The resolution will attest that the Parliament of Australia:

Expresses the gratitude of the Australian nation to the service personnel and civilians in Rabaul and the New Guinea Islands for their services in the defence of Australia during World War II.

Expresses its regret and sorrow for the sacrifices that were made in the defence of Rabaul and the New Guinea Islands and in the subsequent sinking of the Montevideo Maru on 1 July 1942.

Conveys its condolences to the relatives and loved ones of the people who died in this conflict.

Conveys its thanks to the relatives for their forbearance and efforts in ensuring that the nation remembers the sacrifices made.

The formal proceedings will be webcast live on the internet as they occur. Live broadcasts of Parliament can be linked to at

Keith is President of the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society, established to ensure national recognition of the fall of Rabaul and Australia’s greatest maritime disaster, a shocking tragedy of war. Contact the Society here to receive copies of its free monthly newsletter


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Martin Hadlow

Well done, Keith, and all your committee colleagues. A great effort.

I try to imagine myself in the position of the men caged in the hold of the Montevideo Maru as it went down. I trust their faith sustained them in that dreadful hour and that they now rest peacefully.

Lest we forget.

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