Simon Statton MAJ shares the importance of Community work and demonstrating the Anzac spirit

Nominations have been extended until this Friday 5th August

Winner of the Spirit of Anzac Award, Simon Statton MAJ shares the importance of Community work and demonstrating the Anzac spirit.

What community contribution have you made that was the most meaningful to you?

Being welcomed to the Al-Faisal College, Austral NSW 2179, to give an ANZAC Day speech, by the Managing Director Sheikh Shafiq R. Abdullah Khan.

Mr Khan was wonderful, I was amazed as I entered the school that their personal values were openly displayed around the foyer as a reminder to the students; and subsequently pleased that they aligned with my own personal values. The main thrust of my speech focused on core values of the ANZACs, then drew analogies into those behaviours around the school and in the home.
I leveraged off my 4 years’ experience as the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, ‘Gallipoli Radio Communications Manager’ (I have a very polished presentation on the ‘commemorative event’), where I talked about Gallipoli and Ataturk.

I was a little nervous about how a discussion on Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (LTCOL Commanding 57 Regiment, ‘The Saviour of Gallipoli’, President 1920-1938, ‘Father of the Turks’) would go, given his actions may have been polarising for them. Turns out the teachers loved it, it cleared up a lot of detail for them around Ataturk that the kids had been asking. I provided the facts he abolished the Harem, Veil, Fez, Polygamy, gave women their freedom, modernised Turkey, introduced the Gregorian calendar a monetary system and still the only person in the world to separate the Church from the State in a Muslim country. They had a lovely ANZAC Day service, with all the stock standard elements.

With your full time employment and your position as a Major in the Australian Army, how do you find the time and motivation to work on the varied community initiatives and events?

Firstly, when I did the activities for the award and was nominated; I was actually only a part-time member of the Army, my full time job then was Manager Assets, Infrastructure & Construction for the NSW Rural Fire Service. In that role I was able to find time throughout the day to attend commemorative events, I managed managers and my boss was supportive.
o Concurrently with my day job, I was the Officer Commanding of a Reserve Unit, a National Netball umpire who umpires and coaches netball umpires on Saturdays, there was a family squeezed in there somewhere!
o There is a saying that is appropriate I believe, “if you want something done, find someone who doesn’t have any time”!

I was then inundated with commemorative events – I was continually asked to do the next one and another etc. I was happy to help out, but I did find that I had to take a couple of days leave from work after ANZAC day, as I was mentally fatigued from all the master of ceremony and guest speaker gigs I did in the lead up, during and post ANZAC Day. Some of the opportunities where with quite diverse community groups that I would not normally interact with on a daily basis.

Currently, I am back in the Army full time; I work in current operations, basically ‘crisis management’ for the Army. Issues crop up, I address them, then task units and formations to provide resources to resolve said issues. This role currently gives me plenty of flexibility to work remotely if required, but importantly I can take time out for Commemorative activities. The Army has recently realised that we had stepped away from Commemorative events in recent times and now is actively supportive and encouraging of members to participate in commemorative events.

Because I was heavily involved in local commemorative activities before getting back in the Army, I will continue to do so; it is very easy being full time Army and moving around the country to not invest your time and effort into the local community, given the transient nature of service life.

With respect to the question on finding the motivation for the events, I enjoy passing on stories from our collective history, I feel it is important to understand and pass on the lessons of the past; history always repeats itself to some extent, past behaviours and actions will often reflect future behaviours and actions, the current tensions in the indo-pacific being a case in point.

With what volunteer effort or project have you experienced the greatest success?

That is a hard question, what is the measure of success? I feel like I have had success in whatever I am passionate about and put my effort into. I have had a lot of volunteer roles as an MC, guest speaker, Scout Group Leader and National Netball umpire to name a few. Netball is something I have been involved with for 33 years, I was a National Men’s player for 10 years, have been a National umpire for 22 years, have umpired State league games, I’m the current Australian Defence Force Umpires convenor and with my local Netball Association at Campbelltown, I still umpire and coach umpires all day from 8:30 till 4:00 pm each Saturday. We do get paid to umpire, but not to coach/mentor umpires. Netball is an enduring passion of mine, I met my wife when we played in the same representative mixed team for Bankstown over an 8 year period. As only children, the other players in that representative team are the Uncles and Aunts for our two daughters, who ‘no surprises’ play netball and one is a National Umpire.

Did you have a mentor or manager that encouraged you in your volunteer efforts and set you on this path?

With respect to commemorative volunteer work, when I first transitioned from full time Army to part time Army as a Sergeant in 2006, the unit I was posted to ‘142 Signal Squadron’ provided enduring support to Cabra-Vale Diggers Club for the catafalque party on ANZAC Day.

Over the years I grew to know some of the Directors, and in particular the standing Master of Ceremonies for Cabra-Vale Diggers Club, Major (retired) Walter Robinson OAM.

Walter used to be the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) for the 1st Brigade, when they were in Holsworthy, so he knows how to run a military parade.

Walter has developed into my mentor and I am his understudy. Initially it started with, can you do a speech for us, then I was suddenly doing the odd speech elsewhere. Over time, Walter had too many things on his plate, so he would ask if I could help out and do, I think there was a fascination too with someone who would speak in full uniform.

The first time I was asked to be an MC, was for Remembrance Day at Liverpool. The ANZAC Day was apparently a work in progress; therefore they asked if Walter could find a contemporary soldier to be the MC, thus he asked me. I thrived with it and have progressed from there, I am currently the standing MC for Liverpool on ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day.

Walter is linked in with community events and probably manages 90% of my schedule.

When I did my Masters at Western Sydney University in 2013/14, the Uni staff noticed my “Return from Active Service (RAS)” badge on my suit and asked if I could do a presentation to the International students, on what ANZAC Day is and what it means to Australians. So I have been presenting this every year at Parramatta Campus, they bring me back as their Alumni.

What does winning this award mean to you personally?

Winning is unexpected and humbling, given it is doing something I enjoy, being that community story teller on the Spirit of ANZAC, quite often incorporating side stories and local facts. It is great to be recognised for the effort, especially during the period where I received the award, where I was actually quite busy, having to develop different speeches then perform at the individual events.

Tell us more about your involvement with Cabra Vale Diggers.

It’s a voluntary involvement. I assist with commemorative events, though I am often used as a ‘trusted advisor’ and have provided advice in a few areas.