Whittlesea Library’s acting branch manager Coralie Kouvelas hopes the Anzac Stories display will encourage children and parents to visit, pick up a book, and learn about World War history together.

By Aleksandra Bliszczyk

BEFORE and after-school care students at St Mary’s Primary School have been hard at work making paper wreaths and milk-bottle lanterns for Anzac Day, now on display at Whittlesea Library.

The two artworks are part of the library’s Anzac Stories display, which includes a featured selection of the library’s Anzac collection, other donated artworks, and a photo wall by Whittlesea Historical Society depicting soldiers, many of whom are honoured on plaques through the township.

After last year’s Anzac commemorations were cancelled, library acting branch manager Coralie Kouvelas said erecting the display was a wonderful way to help educate especially children in the community about Anzac history and encourage them to visit and borrow from the library.

“I think it’s an opportunity where parents can actually come in if there are questions, can get a book or something that they can actually share with their children to maybe have a few of those explanations on their level,” she said.

Library community coordinator Marie McMahon added it was getting children involved that helped ‘start a conversation’ within the community.

Before and after school care students at St Mary’s Primary School created two Anzac-themed artworks out of paper and milk bottles for Whittlesea Library. ​

“It sort of loses a bit of impact but I think there’s a resurgence of interest in veterans and supporting them so it’s just an opportunity for the kids to take the time to make the artwork and perhaps come down and see the artwork in the library and see that what they’ve done is a community effort,” Ms McMahon said.

The library sits within the Whittlesea Community Activity Centre, where many World War One and Two records, awards and honour rolls are kept, so the site already holds Anzac significance.

“A lot of their council certifications and awards are in the hallway as well so we do get family members who come in and pop a poppy. We didn’t last year because of COVID, but they do come in because realistically a lot of these servicemen are buried in France so their families wouldn’t have somewhere to go to actually remember their loved ones, so it is really poignant to the community,” Ms Kouvelas said.

Ms McMahon said the display showed gratitude to all living current or returned servicemen.

“There are so many people with PTSD, and it’s just acknowledgement of the fact … that they made sacrifices for us and their lives have changed because of it,” she said.

There will be no Anzac Day march in Whittlesea this year, instead a dawn ceremony at the Soldiers Memorial at 6.30am and a second service at the Arch Memorial at 11am, where attendees can lay wreaths.

Ms McMahon said library staff ‘haven’t had to have crowd control’ since erecting the display last week, but were hoping to attract a lot of visitors this weekend after last year’s quiet Anzac Day.

“I think it’s going to be a place where people can go and reconnect,” Ms Kouvelas said.