PLC Graduate Goals in action: Katrina and Serene Simpson Prize Winners on Tour.

During the term two holidays, Katrina and I participated in the 2022 Simpson Prize Canberra program. Following two years of cancellations and online ceremonies, we were both incredibly grateful and excited to have the opportunity to travel interstate and participate in the program. On this four-day trip, we interacted and learnt from the 14 other winners and runners-up from each state and territory of Australia; and took part in several tours, visiting many of the historical institutions and commemorative sites of the Nation’s capital. In the program, we were able to learn more about Australia and its involvement in the World Wars both on the battlefield and on the home front.

The PLC Scholar and Citizen

On the first day, we represented PLC as part of a group of 14 other winners from schools around Australia, at the National Archives of Australia. We put our scholarly attributes into action in a highly anticipated war record activity took place. During the exploration, we were able to handle authentic ANZAC war records retrieved from the archive’s preservation center, including attestation papers, service and casualty forms and correspondence between soldiers’ families. Reading the stories of soldiers through personal accounts brought to life the hardship and struggles of war endured by individual Australians and has certainly left a lasting impression.

The trip continued with visits to the National Museum of Australia and Australian War Memorial, where we had a chance to to appreciate some more contemporary work including the NAIDOC week exhibition ‘Connection’ (an immersive digital light and sound exhibition celebrating the passing down of stories through the art and music of Indigenous Australians). This show was truly breathtaking and it was particularly special to know that each component of the exhibition was created by indigenous artists. 

The Australian War Memorial was one of the central locations of the trip. Reading the names on the wall of poppies, a recognition of the sacrifice of many brave Australians and listening to their stories at the last post ceremony served as a moving reminder that their ANZAC legacy will continue to live through us. We were given an exclusive tour of the Treloar Technology Center where we were fascinated to see the development of technology from as early as the 1870s to artillery used in more recent conflicts. 

Whilst in Canberra, we also visited Mt Ainslie Lookout where we were able to appreciate the unique design of the Nation’s Capital; a city built around the natural landscape. Here we learnt about the architect Walter Burley Griffin and how his idea to build Canberra based on the natural topography of the landscape came to be. I found learning about the intention behind the design of Canberra while looking over at the panoramic view quite inspiring. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Canberra and am grateful to have had this opportunity to discover more about Australia’s history and for the lifelong friendships I’ve made. This program was a truly unforgettable experience.                     

Serene Year 11

The PLC Advocate and Thinker

As the winner of the competition for the State of Victoria, I was fortunate enough to engage with the fellow state winners on an eye opening visit to Norfolk Island after the Canberra program. Despite being a very small 36km2 slice of the pacific region, Norfolk Island is incredibly beautiful and very rich with culture and history, both Polynesian and Colonial. I approached the experience with an open mind, a desire to learn and optimistic enthusiasm of new ideas and new learning opportunities.

Norfolk Island is a place where history is very well preserved and as students of history, we were immediately taken to the Norfolk Island Museum. The Norfolk Island Museum is unlike any other in Australia in the way it incorporates entire heritage listed buildings in its exhibitions. The museum exhibits historical artefacts across the four periods of Norfolk Island history; Polynesian habitation (13th-14th century), the First Penal Settlement (1788 - 1814), the Second Penal Settlement (1824 - 1856) and Settlement by the Pitcairn Islanders (1856 - present). I was particularly fascinated by the thought provoking Polynesian exhibit inside the Commissariat Store (one of the museum’s buildings) as it catalogued artefacts like hearthstones and adzes (stone tools) from that era. 

The museum then challenged us to relate to the experiences of those in the settlement. We were challenged to use adzes (small axe-type tool) - the chipping away at pieces of rock and the concentration required made this task incredibly difficult! It also displayed First and Second Penal Settlement era whips, manacles and crank wheels that gave us an overview of the brutality shown to convicts, which was later built upon by the Sound and Lighting Show we were shown. The Sound and Lighting Show provided an immersive auditory and visual experience of the penal settlements. It was especially confronting and provocative when we saw the convict actors being given ‘lashings’ whilst the audio narrated the trauma they would have experienced.

We also engaged with the intriguing history of the Pitcairn settlement of Norfolk Island, as we related to the HMS Bounty mutineers (which was sensationalised by the 1984 movie The Bounty). The Bounty had originally been captained by Lieutenant William Bligh until a mutiny in 1789 led by Fletcher Christian. The mutineers, in order to escape execution from England, sailed to Pitcairn Island. When they were rediscovered in 1808, the only surviving mutineer, John Adams, and the descendants of the other mutineers were given a pardon by Queen Victoria due to the curiosity surrounding castaways from tales like ‘Robinson Crusoe’ at the time. Queen Victoria then gifted them Norfolk Island in 1856 as their population had outgrown Pitcairn Island. Because of this, the locals are still incredibly loyal to Queen Victoria. A testament to the impact of the Bounty mutineers on the population is the fact that many of the locals still share the last names of mutineers like Christian, Adams, Young and Quintal.

I enjoyed my time immensely at Norfolk Island. The history I learnt and the friends I made from all around Australia will last a lifetime. I would like to thank the Simpson Prize and Mr Catton for offering me this amazing experience. 

Katrina Year 11