#P is for Puckapunyal.
Puckapunyal is a great word; don’t you think? It is an Australian English word derived from a local Aboriginal language. It makes the cut for this blog because of its great name and the role the town plays in our Aussie story.
Situated about 100klms north of Melbourne in Victoria, Puckapunyal is an Australian Army Training facility near the town of Seymour. The connection with military goes back to the early 20th Century when a Light Horse troop was established at Seymour. In the 1920s, post WWI, Puckapunyal became more prominent as a military base and in the 1960s it was the location of basic military training for Vietnam conscripts.
Puckapunyal is immortalised in the opening lines of Redgum’s famous single Only Nineteen also known as A walk in the light green, released in 1983. This song is a haunting account of the personal cost to Aussie veterans of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War.
I recall seeing Redgum live in the mid 1980s and their performance of Only Nineteen gave me goosebumps then and it still does! As a teacher I have used it many times as a teaching tool; studying the lyrics in poetry units in English, in History units or Australian Identity units.
Mum and Dad and Danny saw the passing out parade at Puckapunyal,
It was a long March from cadets.
Writing of passing out parades reminds me of my son’s passing out parade at Cerberus.
The Navy values of Service, Courage, Respect, Integrity and Excellence are on prominent display around the quadrangle which made me feel rather proud but the professionalism of these young Aussies made me even prouder.
The graduating recruits went through their passing out parade routine dressed only in their ceremonial whites and were completely soaked; as a spectator I was freezing cold and I was wearing warm clothing and was completely dry! Talk about raining on your parade, well this group experienced the real deal.
I would love to live in a peaceful world but it seems humans are simply unable to sustain peacefulness. Therefore we need places such as Puckapunyal, Cerberus and other military training sites. And we also need the young men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line and be aware that they may pay the ultimate price.
When the Vietnam veterans returned to Australia, they were shunned and even ridiculed for taking part in a war which many Australians felt we had no right or responsibility to be a part of. It was many years before those war-torn soldiers could march on ANZAC Day with the same respect WW1 and WW2 service persons were afforded.
Have a listen to Redgum’s Only Nineteen. It is goosebump worthy!
I will have to upload the song separately.