We Remember – the 20th anniversary commemoration service.

May 4, 2016

The 20th Anniversary Commemoration Service was held at Port Arthur on Thursday 28 April 2016.  It is estimated that 1000 people attended on the day.  The feedback and thanks that has been received from people who were able to attend at Port Arthur as well as those who watched via ABC footage has been humbling and we thank everyone who has contacted us.

A Service Booklet was distributed to attendees at the Service.  A limited number of these are available to people who would like them.  Please get in contact with Carol Armstrong (contact details below) and arrangements will be made to have a copy sent to you.


A number of people have made contact requesting additional information in relation to aspects of the Commemoration Service.  Some additional information is provided below:

The Collegiate Singers – St Michael’s Collegiate School https://collegiate.tas.edu.au/

St Michael’s Collegiate is an independent, Anglican, day and boarding school for girls located in Hobart.  The Collegiate Singers comprise 22 girls aged 15-18 years.  They were led by the Director of Music and Performance, Mr Aaron Powell and accompanied by Ms Dianne Legg on keyboard and Mr Charles McCarthy the violinist whose skills featured in the final song, You Raise Me Up.

The Keynote Address delivered by the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, Prime Minister of Australia

Mr Turnbull’s speech in its entirety can be found via this link https://www.liberal.org.au/latest-news/2016/04/28/port-arthur-20th-anniversary-commemoration-service-tasmania

The Flowers including the floral tributes, the formal stage arrangement and the wreaths


The spectacular flower arrangements were created by Mrs Grace Gladdish of Swallows Nest Farm at Nubeena on the Tasman Peninsula.  The floral tributes contained a mix of flowers including a central pink protea, wattle, tea tree, eucalyptus foliage and gumnuts.  Each floral tribute contained a small bird on a banksia stick and made from Tasmanian Myrtle.  Two varieties of birds featured – a wren and the New Holland honeyeater, both of which have communities at Port Arthur Historic Site.  More information on Swallows Nest Farm is at this link http://swallowsnestfarm.blogspot.com.au/



The Piper – Like an Eagle

This  song was performed by the lone piper, Mr James McAlpine, and  called the Official Party to the Memorial Cross to lay wreaths.

This song was composed by Mr Iain Campbell.  When he first heard of the massacre at Port Arthur, Ian was terribly upset and immediately sat at his kitchen table and composed the piece.  He said he named it Like an Eagle because eagles have strength and grace and soar above the earth in memory of the victims.  Iain had a Gaelic speaking friend who suggested he named it in Gaelic Coltach Ri Lolaine, which he did.   The song was also played by a piper at the Service which was conducted at Port Arthur soon after the massacre in May 1996.

Some of the words provided by Iain feature in the Service Booklet.  The booklet also features a photo of a sea eagle which was provided to PAHSMA by Roaring Beach Wildlife Rescue.  This eagle is one of a pair that nests at Port Arthur.

The Song – Always Remember

This beautiful song was sung for the first time at the Commemoration Service by Dr Cait Vertigan and Ms Ali Hart.  Cait is an employee with Port Arthur Historic Site and Ali is the music teacher from Tasman District School.  Cait and Ali were provided with some scant information from the Working Group in relation to the theme of the Service.  Together they sat down and wrote both the music and the words.  The song was delivered with such feeling on the day that it resonated with the entire audience.  The words of Always Remember are here.

The recorded version of the song is also available here.

The poem – Garden of Peace

This poem was written following the massacre by Dr Margaret Scott who passed away in 2005.  The words of Garden of Peace are also inscribed on the surrounds of the Memorial Garden reflection Pool.

At the Service, the Poem was read by Mr Keith Moulton, father of Nanette and grandfather of Alannah and Madeline Mikac.  The poem can be found here.

The poem – Setting sun on twenty years

This poem was written by Mr Laurie Tatnell who resides on the Tasman Peninsula.  For Laurie, writing poetry has been a consuming passion from his teenage years.  He published a book of his poetry in 2008, titled Poetry from Port Arthur.  The poem was written especially for the Service and was heard for the first time when read by Maria Stacey.  The words of the poem are here.

Maria Stacey is the Visitor Services Manager at Port Arthur Historic Site.  Maria has been employed by PAHSMA for the past 23 years.  On the day of the Massacre, Maria was the Weekend Supervisor.

The Quilts on the stage

Two beautiful quilts were hung as a backdrop on the stage at the Service.  The larger of the quilts is known as the We Care quilt is held in the Tasman Peninsula Historical Society’s collection.  It was made by Australia wide quilting friends of the Tasmanian Quilting Guild for the people of the Tasman Peninsula in November 1996

The smaller quilt, the Quilt of Love was passed into the care of PAHSMA in 2006 from a former member of the Tasman Rotary Club.  The quilt was made by a group of women from Sydney shortly after the Massacre and was posted to Tasmania to the local Policeman at that time.  He too was a member of Tasman Rotary and the Club cared for the quilt from 1996 – 2006.  It is now part of the PAHSMA 1996 collection.

We Remember – Lest we Forget

In the week leading up to the 20th Anniversary, PAHSMA was contacted by Mr Guryel Ali.  Guryel provided the following information:

“We remember 20 years.  I originally wrote this song to mark the first anniversary 1997.  20 years sounds like a long time ago but it just seems like yesterday. I remember the time well as the news unfolded, to our horror we were advised that we had very close family ties to one of the many families affected. I remember the strength our Prime Minister of the day, John Howard, needed in the buy-back scheme. I present this song now in remembrance.  Lest We Forget. Being a singer song writer, I wrote this song with ANZAC Day still fresh in my mind.”

The link to Guryel’s song is provided here: https://animoto.com/play/Tmlf2Bni1P8CsWXoOvUrDA?autostart=1

Enquiries to Carol Armstrong carol.armstrong@portarthur.org.au 03 6251 2305 or 0407 836 211