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The unique Tongan contribution to Brisbane’s ANZAC Day programs

25 April 2019

Brisbane, AUSTRALIA: ANZAC Day is commemorated annually in Brisbane and like most years, the Tongan community is actively involved.

Many are not fully aware of the Tongan war effort in the two World Wars, nor the contribution of Tongans to the Armed Services of Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America or the Kingdom of Tonga.

When Great Britain declared war on Germany a call was sent out to all parts of the British Empire to support their efforts to defeat their opposition. Thousands of miles away in the South Pacific, that call was answered by some of the smallest British Protectorate Nations. Though few in number, they were passionate in their support.

The Kingdom of Tonga was not a British colony; it was the only Pacific Island to proudly hold and maintain its political independence as a monarchy. In 1900, as foreign powers were drawing their lines of power in the Pacific Islands’ sands, His Majesty Late King Tupou II smartly signed a friendship treaty with Great Britain.

Brisbane’s Tongan Community acknowledges the ongoing service of Lieutenant Colonel ‘Alamoti Lavaki who was commissioned as a Specialist officer in the Australian Army as a Chaplain in 2005. He has been deployed multiple times to East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq.

At the end of 2018, Reverand ‘Alamoti Lavaki was promoted to a Lieutenant Colonel and was posted to Sydney. His new role involves planning and mentoring of new Chaplains and co-ordinating Chaplaincy business throughout Australia. He is currently in the Kingdom of Tonga as part of the Australian Defence Force Pacific engagement. Their goal is to develop with the Pacific Nations through training, sharing ideas and community engagements.

Lt. Col. ‘Alamoti Lavaki said, “ANZAC day always reminds me of my friends who paid the ultimate sacrifice. They laid down their lives for the freedom of our Nation and the world.”

He concluded, “‘There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ John 15:13. We will remember them - lest we forget.”

Brisbane Tongan Brass Band members, Mr Sione Malekamu Manu and his niece, Miss ‘Ana Vaimoana Manu, join the Brisbane Brass Band in ANZAC Day marches and memorial services.

According to Aranui Library, 91 men born or living in the Kingdom of Tonga have been identified as having served in World War I. There were some that served in the French Forces and British Royal Engineers, including Sione Talia‘uli who enlisted in early 1915. He served on a hospital ship and later in Palestine where he died of disease.

There were nine sets of brothers from the Kingdom of Tonga that served (mostly together): Roberts, Skudders, Cockers, Jurys, Legers, Parsons, Ramseys, Lynchs, and Lydens. The Skeens were cousins. The highest rank that was reached by a Tongan was held by Sergeant Baisley Leger.

His Majesty’s Armed Forces continue to serve globally, mostly in peace keeping missions, whilst the Tongan war effort is commemorated annually on ANZAC Day at the Tongan War Memorial in Nuku‘alofa where more than 53 Tongan names are listed.

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