Army Never Been to War, Are GCs nonetheless

Christchurch’s Student Volunteer Army has been awarded the 2012 Returned Services’ Association Anzac of the Year Award, in recognition of its contribution to the Christchurch community following the Christchurch earthquakes. The award was presented on the eve of Anzac Day by the impressively-titled, Governor General Lieutenant General The Right Honourable Sir Jerry Mateparae GNZM QSO.

The award was established in 2010 to recognises the efforts of New Zealanders who exemplify the qualities of comradeship, compassion, courage and commitment. This year marks the first time the award has been given to non-military personnel or to a group. “The young men and women who went out and delivered exceptional support did so in the true spirit of the original Anzacs,” said Sir Mateparae.

The SVA was initiated by University of Canterbury student Sam Johnson following the 7.1 magnitude Christchurch earthquake on 4 September 2010. Sam set up the Student Volunteer Army Facebook page where students could find information on how to volunteer. In the two weeks following the earthquake the Army provided much-needed support to over 2,500 volunteers and helped clear over 65,000 tonnes of liquefaction.

Although the SVA’s efforts may not have taken place in wartime, it was acknowledged by the RSA that the Army possessed the same values and integrity displayed by Anzacs at war. Mr Johnson agreed, saying “I think it’s the same mentality – ‘let’s just get out there and do what we can in this situation.’”

Speaking from Gallipoli, RSA National President Don McIver congratulated the SVA, “I wish to congratulate them all on their contribution – like those who went before them, they have made a nation proud.”

Sam Johnson, Andrew Chalmers, and all ten members of the SVA committee received the award on behalf of the wider SVA, many of whom were at the presentation ceremony.
This article first appeared in Issue 9, 2012.
Posted 4:56pm Sunday 29th April 2012 by Imogen Whyte.