The Sir John Monash Centre attracts many visitors each year, including school groups from the region and other areas of France or from countries further away such as Australia, the United Kingdom and other parts of the world.
Through the high-tech audio-visual displays at the Centre, schools learn about Australia’s experience on the Western Front and for French schools it is the opportunity to discover this, sometimes, unknown side of the First World War.
In addition to the audio-visual displays and immersive content, the Centre offers various educational activities and workshops.
Students can take part in a workshop to learn the story of Australian soldier Private Valentine Augustine Rochfort. Valentine was a stretcher-bearer who served with the 9th Australian Field Ambulance. He lost his life on 23 August 1918 at Sailly-le-Sec in northern France.
Using reproductions of his equipment, everyday objects, photographs and documents, students are invited to touch, observe and describe these items in order to gain a better understanding of living conditions on the Western Front and to learn more about the role, identity and fate of Private Rochfort.
The Centre also offers guided tours of the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery and the Australian National Memorial to school groups during their visit. These tours allow students to understand the history of the Memorial and cemetery, and the work carried out by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission which cares for the cemetery and grounds.
It is also an opportunity to tell the story of the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, which took place from 24 to 26 April 1918 and explain the importance of Anzac Day and the Dawn Service which is held each year in front of the Memorial.
This visit is an opportunity to commemorate soldiers, whether it be Private Valentine Augustine Rochfort, Gunner William Tasker, commemorated by the Wallabies team last August, or any of the 2,144 other soldiers buried in this cemetery. On request, school groups can organise a wreath-laying ceremony using the SJMC app. The ceremony comprises four readings and audio of the Last Post and Rouse.
For primary schools and families with children aged six to eleven, an adapted visit of the galleries is available. The Diggers’ Quest app is a fun and interactive activity that provides children with a tour through the galleries on various subjects explaining Australia’s experience on the Western Front.
To encourage younger generations to learn more about Australian First World War history, in 1989 the Australian Government created the Sadlier Stokes Prize, named in tribute to Lieutenant Clifford Sadlier and Sergeant Charlie Stokes, who fought in the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux. Each year, the prize is awarded to three projects produced by a primary, secondary or high school in France and France’s overseas territories on the theme of Australia and the First World War.
For details on how to enter your school into the 2024 Sadlier Stokes Prize (open to French schools only), please click here.