Anna’s Anzac connection

Spirit of Anzac Award winner Anna Whelan of Pakenham Secondary with MP Frank McGuire.

By Bonny Burrows

As the descendant of reknown Anzac author Patsy Adam-Smith, Anna Whelan has always had an interest in Australia’s war history.
And thanks to the Premier’s Spirit of Anzac Prize the Pakenham school girl’s understanding is going to greatly improve.
As a recipient of the Anzac prize, the 15-year-old will in April head on all-expenses paid overseas study tour of Singapore war sites.
The annual competition, run by the Victorian Government, selects 22 Year 9 or 10 students from across Victoria for the overseas study tour and an additional 20 regional finalists for a tour a significant Australian location, this year Canberra.
For Anna, the overseas trip will be an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the horrors those, including her distant family members, had experienced.
While more knowledgeable than most others her age on the devastations of war, Anna admits she has a lot to learn.
“We only read about war in books. To visit these places I think will solidify the horrors we’ve only heard about for so long. To make it a reality,” Anna said.
Of particular interest to Anna is Changi Prison.
“It’s in all the shows, books and movies, but as I said before, I think being there, seeing it will really give me a greater understanding,” Anna said.
The Year 10 student said she was particularly inspired to be attending such a prestigious trip with a number of other like-minded teenagers.
She said she felt often the younger generations were naïve to the sacrifices made by others in times of war, however was reassured by the interest the trip had attracted among her peers.
“I’m enlightened to see other people my age interested and intrigued by this,” Anna said.
“I think it will be an emotional trip, but very worthwhile.”
Entries for the 2018-19 study tour opened on 5 February and Anna encouraged all eligible students to apply.
“A competition like this really opens up the world for everyone and gives you another view on life,” Anna said.
For more details or to apply online, visit

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