A family's fight

Descendants of the Hutchins brothers are furious about the proposed relocation of the family’s memorial plaque.

Swan Hill Rural City Council recently placed a public notice in The Guardian proposing to move the plaque from Riverside Park to the Woorinen Memorial Gates due to vandalism.

Descendants of the Hutchins brothers Bev Liversidge, Mick Salau and David Salau at the memorial plaque in Riverside Park. Picture: PAMELA BLACKMAN

Descendants of the Hutchins brothers Bev Liversidge, Mick Salau and David Salau at the memorial plaque in Riverside Park. Picture: PAMELA BLACKMAN

“This location has been selected as the Hutchins family originated from Woorinen North and is supported by local RSL clubs,” the notice read.

Council sought public comment on the proposal which closed last Friday.

The tragic and heartbreaking story of the Hutchins brothers has been well publicised as one of the greatest losses for a single family during World War II, when seven brothers went to war and only three came home.

The fallen brothers’ fates were not known until February 2, 1946, when their parents Henry and Mary Hutchins received the first of four telegrams — three more would arrive within the week.

A memorial plaque was unveiled at Riverside Park in 2007 in memory of the fallen brothers — Eric, David, Fred and Alan — and the three who came home — Ivan, Bill and Mike.

The brothers’ nephews David and Mick Salau, and niece Bev Liversidge, are angered by Council’s proposal to move the plaque.

Mr and Mr Salau’s mother Myrtle was the sister of the brothers, while Mrs Liversidge’s father Mike was one of the three brothers who returned home.

“We don’t want it moved; it won’t get recognition if it gets moved,” David Salau said.

“Mum wanted it at Riverside Park so it was where people would see it often.

“It may be just a plaque, but it’s like a burial site to us; why dig up the dead?

“The plaque needs to stay where it is because that’s where mum wanted it to be.”

Mr Salau said the family had been kept in the dark about the proposal.

“Council hasn’t told us why they’ve made this decision,” he said.

Mrs Liversidge travelled from her home in Mooroopna to Swan Hill solely to talk to The Guardian about the proposal.

“To have something as important as that at a football field is not good enough,” Mrs Liversidge said.

“I can’t stress how important it is to us that it stays where it is.

“Riverside Park is a lovely spot; that’s the place Myrtle chose and it was agreed upon by the Council all those years ago.”

She confirmed that the family had not been notified of the proposal before the notice was placed.

“If we hadn’t seen the classified, we wouldn’t have known about it,” she said.

“Someone from Council called me last week after we put a submission in.

“They said nothing could be touched until everyone was happy with the decision.

“Apparently they need full consideration from all the family, and there are two individuals that we know of who want the change.”

Mrs Liversidge said she had offered to pay for a replacement plaque herself, but didn’t have her offer accepted.

“I wanted to replace the plaque myself, at no cost to the council, to something that couldn’t be damaged,” she said.

“They weren’t open to us restoring the plaque ourselves.”

A family photo of the seven Hutchins brothers with their parents Henry and Mary. Picture: PAMELA BLACKMAN

A family photo of the seven Hutchins brothers with their parents Henry and Mary. Picture: PAMELA BLACKMAN

The four fallen Hutchins brother all perished during their time imprisoned in Japanese POW camps.

“Their story educates people about Ambon Island (where three of the brothers died), which had the highest death rate for a POW camp in World War II,” she said.

“We want people to know about it; their story is an important story for the Swan Hill region.”

Swan Hill Rural City Council chief executive officer John McLinden said Council received three public comments about the proposal.

“A report will now be prepared for councillors to consider at their November Ordinary Meeting,” Mr McLinden said.

Mrs Liversidge’s late son Paul spent 10 years organising the history of the brothers, travelling across the country to gather information about his ancestors.

His work can be viewed at www.sevensoldiersons.com.au.

A petition to stop the relocation was set up on Wednesday night and had more than 100 signatures in 24 hours. 

You can find the petition at www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/212/084/496/.

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