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Gippsland and the town of Heyfield have a special connection to the newly opened Sir John Monash Centre in the French town of Villers-Bretonneux.

The interpretive centre, which honours more than 295,000 soldiers who served on the Western Front, and the 46,000 who died there, was officially opened this week on the centenary of the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux.

Timber from the Heyfield mill features in the building.

The centre is located alongside the historic Australian National Memorial in the French town north of Paris. It uses the soldiers’ own words to present their stories about the Western Front during World War One.

The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester, in his role as the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of Anzac, assisted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to officially open the centre earlier this week.

“The Sir John Monash Centre invites visitors to walk a mile in a soldier’s boots,” Mr Chester said.

Mr Chester said timberwork panelling inside the centre used different timbers to represent each Australian state and territory.

“Victorian Ash milled at the Australian Sustainable Hardwoods mill in Heyfield was selected to represent Victoria,” Mr Chester said.

“Gippsland and Heyfield now have a special connection to this moving space that commemorates Australia’s wartime history.

“These timbers bring warmth to the building and an unmistakable Australian flavour to the Sir John Monash Centre. I was proud to see timber sourced from Heyfield in France and featuring inside a building that’s the centrepiece of Australia’s Anzac Centenary.

“The supply in wood for the centre proves, once again, we have a world class timber product that is sustainable and creates hundreds of jobs in our region.”

Australian Sustainable Hardwoods National Sales Manager Brett Bould said the company’s employees and their families were immensely proud that ASH Heyfield’s timber was selected for such a significant commemorative display.

Chevrons, v-shaped lines or stripes used to denote years of service in the Australian Imperial Force, are used as a motif throughout the centre. There are 1032 timber chevrons at the centre and feature in timberwork panels in the foyer and around the Immersive Gallery.

Australian timbers were also used to make furniture, wall panels and doors. All of the timberwork at the centre is the work of Grant Rollinson, one of Australia’s finest craftsmen from Enigma Design near Canberra.

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