Grievance Debate: Mr Bill Corey


Mr GARDNER ( Morialta ) ( 15:22 ): I have extraordinary pleasure today in rising to reflect on the remarkable life of Bill Corey. Bill is a constituent in the Morialta electorate. He lives in Rostrevor in a retirement village just a stone's throw from the street where I grew up and, thankfully, very close to where my office is now. I had great pleasure in visiting him a couple of years ago to spend some time reflecting on his extraordinary war record and range of achievements in community and public service that he has undertaken since. 

On 7 August, in coming weeks, Bill will turn 100 years old. He is one of the last two surviving Rats of Tobruk and his life is worth significant reflection. Bill served with the 2nd/43rd Infantry Battalion in North Africa at Tobruk and El Alamein. He served in New Guinea at Lae and Finschhafen and on Labuan Island in Borneo. For five years, he was on the front line fighting the Axis forces. 

Bill is a South Australian, and proudly so, whose family has been in South Australia since the 1830s, and he felt called upon to do his duty when his nation needed him. He has been mentioned in this place and others and thanked for that service on a number of occasions but, on the occasion of his 100th birthday, I particularly want to pass on my support, my gratitude and the gratitude of this side of the house and, I believe, the whole parliament. 

Bill's mother and father were both pioneer South Australians of the 1830s. His father was born in 1882 in Burra. His mother was born in 1882 and raised by her grandmother who arrived in Australia in 1837. Bill grew up in the country and, after the war, he married his wife Iris. They settled in Adelaide and had two children. Bill enlisted when he was a butcher at the age of 22. His father and grandfather were also butchers. Bill was also a keen dinghy sailor. When he returned home, he again became a butcher and started his own business. For 25 years, he ran a butcher's shop on Glen Osmond Road. 

Bill Corey has marched in every ANZAC Day parade since he returned home from the Second World War. Last year, he opened the ANZAC Centenary Memorial Walk just prior to ANZAC Day, and his childhood home in Tarlee is now the Grasshopper Roadhouse, which a number of members would be familiar with. 

Today, I particularly pay tribute to Bill's continued connection with the community and the work he does in educating schoolchildren about the trials and trauma of war and the service that our veterans have provided and the challenges they faced. Bill has spoken to me about how much he loves speaking to schoolchildren. He also contributes to the community in other ways. I remember him coming to the Australia Day Citizenship Ceremony at Campbelltown council a couple of years ago because, as he said, he wanted to enjoy the company of those people who were making the commitment to become Australians on that day. 

He was very much appreciated by the member for Sturt, Christopher Pyne, myself and Mayor Simon Brewer and all who met him sitting unassumingly in the crowd—humble, modest and giving, as he is. Bill contributes to the history life circles group that meets at the Campbelltown council sharing stories and companionship. I want to conclude this speech by giving some of Bill's own words and reflections. This has been published before, but I think it is worth noting Bill's words in the house: 

Mateship is a big deal to me and always has been. However, after the war…I looked at mateship and Anzac Day differently. It was different because no longer was it a commemoration of the diggers of World War One, but to me it meant that I was going to see mates and chaps that I lived with for five years. 

For the first few years after the war, Anzac Day was always hard for me, it brought back memories of my service, I even found it hard to sleep a couple of nights before the day. In those early days is wasn’t so much about remembering the war, but meeting up with all the old chaps. But as time has passed Anzac Day has changed again for me. It has turned into a bitter sweet time as over the years most of them have passed on and I am just about alone. 

I was a butcher when I enlisted at 22, in June 1940 and I have marched in every Anzac Day since I returned home. I now look forward to Anzac Day. At 98, my son marches with me just in case I don’t make the distance, but I wouldn’t miss it. 

I don’t think I am anything special, but I think I am a link between now and that past. I get quite a lot of pleasure out of people asking me if I knew their father or grandfather who served with me in WWII. Talking to these people about their relatives gives me a lot of satisfaction and they think it’s wonderful as well. I also talk to school children often, they love hearing the war stories, but I only talk to them about our living conditions and what we ate… 

Bill Corey, we thank you for your life of service.