I was fortunate to attend the 100 year Commemoration of Australia’s first naval victory at the Cocos Islands. There were dignitaries and descendants of both German and Australian sailors. The battle between the Emden and Sydney is featured in my book Light Horse Boy, so this was a special occasion for me to visit the island and find out more. The main commemoration ceremony was marked by the ringing of the new friendship bells on November 9th 2014.
Between events I gave presentations and workshops to students at both Home and West Island campuses of Cocos Islands District High School. The younger children loved Granny Grommet and Me while the older students and I spoke about historical fiction. The students knew so much about their own history and so it was fun to show photos of the ships and Albany events linked to the convoy that passed their islands 100 years ago.
The staff and students of CIDHS were so welcoming, especially English and Library teacher Lee Hegarty, who organised my sessions, hosted me, took me sightseeing in her character-filled car, Roxy and introduced me to her friends and the friendly locals. Cocos is a horseshoe shaped atoll with amazing wildlife. Snorkelling with dolphins in clear turquoise water was wonderful.
The school’s motto ‘Kerja Sama dan Kejayaan’, means cooperation and achievement in Cocos/Malay and you can feel that spirit everywhere in the school. The students gave a respectful re-enactment of the Sydney-Emden battle as part of a Remembrance Day assembly. This was very moving for all who watched, particularly the visiting descendants.
Thank you to the Literature Centre and Coco Islands School for sponsoring this very special visit.