On a perfect sunlit afternoon the first of the Homefront sculptures were unveiled to local residents, war veterans and friends. Mayor Mark Di Pasquale gave a warm opening speech that reflected his enthusiastic support for this project. Local veterans unwound rope and cloth and revealed each sculpture to gasps and applause.
‘Justin the Tracker Dog’ was unveiled by Justin’s last handler, Denis Rowlands, who remarked on the day; “You know, it’s been fifty years since I’ve seen my dog.” Justin, like the other tracker dogs was given to a family in Vietnam and did not return to Australia. Denis is delighted that he (and his current dog,) can visit Justin’s sculpture in the Park. Justin’s stainless steel collar was forged by local blacksmith Roland Dannenhauer. The figure of the dog was carved by Eltham carver Leigh Conkie. ‘Justin’ seems to be a favourite of our young local people who love to give him a hug.
‘Modern Combat’ was unveiled by Afghanistan War veteran Simon Thorn. Simon is part of the Homefront Sculpture Steering Committee and his input on this particular sculpture refined the final design.
‘Reunion’ was unveiled by World War II veteran Ron Cornelius, who unveiled the boy, and Lee Webb, President of the Greensborough RSL and Vietnam War veteran, who unveiled the soldier. Ron was a passionate member of our writing workshops, writing pages of stories and memories of his life before and during the war. Filmmaker Mike Wilkins has captured a beautiful interview with Ron and his wife Ellen talking about their lives and Ron’s return from war. (The footage will soon be added to this site.)
Lee Webb has been instrumental in supporting the Homefront Sculpture project and, as part of the Steering Committee, will be active throughout the next series of sculptures.
The final sculpture, ‘Vietnam’ was unveiled by Bill Cantwell who, along with a number of fellow Vietnam War veterans, inspired this sculpture with stories of his war experiences.
Special thanks to Cultural Services Team Leader, Colin James who has worked behind the scenes throughout this project, including organising the unveiling event and campaigning for a number of years to make the Homefront Sculptures possible.
Robert Winther, Veteran Liaison Officer at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital concluded with a memorable speech in which he imagined himself as the boy of the ‘Reunion’ sculpture.
With much gratitude we acknowledge the weeks of work undertaken under the hot summer sun by carvers Hikaru Kodama and Leigh Conkie. Their attention to the tiniest detail, the expressive faces and grandeur of the figures have fittingly honoured our servicemen and women and put some magic in our Park.