News & Events

5000 Poppy Project

Earlier this year, our College was lucky enough to be gifted a large poppy carpet from the 5000 Poppies Project which began as a small personal tribute and spread across the world. Former St Mary’s College student Helen Coughlan was a facilitator and volunteer in the Bendigo project and organised the gift. We asked Helen to share her story:

My name is Helen Coughlan (Helen Roberts) and I am a very proud past student of St Mary’s College.

My family has many connections with the College. My mother Pat (Noonan) also attended St Mary’s College, and my daughter Sadie is now studying Year 12 at Catherine McAuley College (CMC). Soon our son Aloysius (Albee) will be attending Year 7 at the Coolock Campus in Junortoun, where my husband Michael attended high school.

Given my strong history with this school, it has been an honour and a privilege to be able to pass on a poppy banner to each campus at Catherine McAuley College with the blessing of Lynn Berry and Margaret Knight (co-founders of the 5000 Poppies Project).

I was also very blessed to have been able to pass on a poppy banner to my old primary school St Joseph’s.

The ‘5000 Poppies Project’ is a tribute to thank all those that have served, and it has been a significant part of my life and my family’s life.

I was given the role of facilitating the project in Bendigo, bringing everyone together to make poppies for the ‘5000 Poppies Project’.
Poppies were originally made for the breathtakingly beautiful ANZAC Tribute in Federation Square in Melbourne (2015). The founders then went on to create more beautiful poppy installations around Australia and the world including at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show, the Chelsea Flower Show in England, Fromelles and many other places in France, back to Melbourne to the Shrine of Remembrance and then last year our final ‘5000 Poppies Project’ installation at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

The poppy banners donated to Catherine McAuley College are two of the many that have been on this journey and travelled the world.

Almost a million poppies ended up being made and sent to Melbourne for this incredible project, including ones made by staff and students from CMC.

The project started off as a small personal tribute made by Lynn and Margaret for their fathers who served – and went on to become something much bigger. As they say, “from little things big things grow”.

Later, as a volunteer, I facilitated and project-managed our local ‘5000 Poppies Project’ ANZAC tribute that was created for the Bendigo War Memorial Museum. With the help of the community we made another 18,367 poppies to sew onto the banners that we installed here.

I have been extremely blessed taking part in this project – facilitating the crafting tables and sewing the poppies onto the banners with the teams here in Bendigo and in Melbourne. It’s a time I will never forget.

This beautiful heartfelt project the ‘5000 Poppies Project’ has brought together many hands and hearts in our communities – here in Bendigo – in Melbourne – and everywhere. People from all walks of life – all around the world joined together to crochet and knit poppies for this very special project. People of different ages, abilities, cultures and faiths.

It has been incredible!

In my role, I was blessed meeting and connecting with the most wonderful people around the crafting table. Friendships grew, and lives changed as stories were shared of loved ones that never returned home and stories of those that were forever changed from what they had experienced and witnessed in war and in the aftermath of war. Stories shared of what it was like being left behind (the mothers, the grandmothers, the wives, the sisters, the daughters…

Many tears were shared, and laughter too, while making poppies. It became quite cathartic for many.

This project gave many in our community a sense of worth and a feeling of being connected to a purpose and to community.
In my poppy journey I saw that many beautiful deserving human beings feel extremely isolated and alone here in our community.
I saw the ‘5000 Poppies Project’ change so many people’s lives – including my own.

I will be forever blessed and proud of being part of the ‘5000 Poppies’ community and for helping to create the incredible tributes for all those that have served.

Lest We Forget.
Helen Roberts Coughlan

Photo credit: Bendigo Advertiser
Poppy carpet