The Federal Member for Bendigo, Lisa Chesters MP, was at the Bendigo & District RSL today to unveil a magnificent oil painting by local artist, Brett Belot, as part of the Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program.
“It’s a great honour to be able to unveil this artwork that so vividly illustrates the service and sacrifice of our local servicemen and women in the First World War,” said Ms Chesters.
The Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program is a bi-partisan initiative through which funding of up to $125,000 is available for each Federal Member of Parliament (MP) to support projects in their electorate commemorating 100 years of ANZAC. Ms Chesters was very happy to support the RSL’s application for a grant through the program and said the painting - a montage of more than 25 images - was a fitting tribute to the brave men and women from the Greater Bendigo region.
“This painting serves as a powerful reminder of the men and women from our region and the roles they played in the First World War. Each time I look at the artwork I am struck by something new and I am drawn into another story of someone, just like you and me, who made an extraordinary sacrifice so that we can live our lives as we do today,” said Ms Chesters.
Mr Belot spent many weeks researching the stories of local men and women who enlisted and worked collaboratively with Bendigo Military Museum curator, Peter Ball and RSL President, Cliff Richards. Mr Richards said he hoped the painting would encourage people to pause and reflect upon the extraordinary contribution of ordinary Australians.
“The painting will proudly hang at the Bendigo & District RSL for many generations to come. Brett contacted me in 2013 with a vision to create a historic piece of art that would commemorate the Anzac Centenary and he has certainly delivered on that vision,” said Mr Richards.
Among those featured in the painting is John James Bray, one of 35 men who drowned when the submarine AE1 was lost on September 14, 1914 in St George's Channel, off New Guinea. A number of Bendigo Nurses also feature including Royal Red Cross recipient, Ida O'Dwyer, who served in the Australian Army Nursing Service.
Mr Belot, who worked from old photographs, said creating the painting was a moving experience.
“The men and women featured in the painting are just the same as you and I; they had mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters and were thrust into extraordinary and often traumatic circumstances. It is hard not to be moved by their stories of service and sacrifice,” said Mr Belot.
“This is one of ten fantastic Anzac Centenary projects I have been able to support. As we mark the passing of 100 years since the Great War, residents and visitors will be able to get a taste of how the war impacted our region on all fronts. I encourage everyone to ride the refurbished 1914 tram,view the photographic exhibition at Bendigo Health and of course, come together for what will be a particularly poignant Anzac Day service this year,” said Ms Chesters.