Australia and Turkey – side by side


Eddie McGuire plays ball at Meadows Primary School.

Eddie McGuire plays ball at Meadows Primary School.

The ‘‘Side by Side’’ program takes its name not from the Collingwood club song but from Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the Turkish commander at Gallipoli.

Addressing the mothers of the Allied troops who died in the battle, the Turkish leader famously said: ‘‘There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours …After having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well’’.

The ‘‘Side by Side’’ program was initiated by Frank McGuire, the state Labor member for Broadmeadows, and has the support of the Collingwood and Essendon football clubs. Yesterday, at a ceremony at Meadows Primary School in Broadmeadows, Mr McGuire pointed out that Broadmeadows, which was the site of an army training camp in 1915, now had the biggest Turkish population in Victoria. ‘‘It is important to acknowledge how, as Australians, we have grown together, beyond the burden of history and how we can thrive, side by side,’’ he said.

The ceremony, in the primary school gym, was attended by Eddie McGuire and Paul Little, the presidents of the Collingwood and Essendon football clubs, representatives of the Glenroy RSL club and the Australian army plus the Turkish vice-consul , Ersel Ozdemir. Eddie McGuire worked the room, getting children to identify where their football loyalties lay.

‘‘Football brings us together as friends and rivals, and as Australians,’’ he said. ‘‘We’re in this together’’.

Mr Ozdemir read extracts from war diaries telling of the respect between the Turkish and Australian soldiers at Gallipoli and the way they exchanged gifts of food and water during the brief ceasefires. ‘‘May the souls of all who died at Gallipoli rest in peace,’’ he said, noting that ‘‘the grandsons and granddaughters of the men lying side by side over there were now living as one here’’. Mr Ozdemir said the friendly relationship between the two nations was ‘‘probably the only one of its kind and we value it’’.

The ceremony, which included performances of We Are Australian and the national anthem, concluded with a bugler playing the Last Post. After that, the children, accompanied by the Collingwood president and members of the Australian army, went out into the yard for a game of kick-to-kick with a dozen shiny new balls.

Footy, said Frank McGuire, is one of Australia’s simplest and most enduring ties.


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Frank McGuire’s photo gallery of the event Click Here

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