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Australians to embrace new Anzac Day commemorations in the face of COVID-19

Michael Weaver24 April 2020
Artist's impression of people standing on driveways to commemorate Anzac Day

The NSW RSL has offered suggestions for people to commemorate Anzac Day. Photo: NSW RSL.

For the first time since World War II, the Anzac Day march at Captains Flat will not be held.

Across the region, war memorials will be silent.

Towns such as Bega, Cooma, Bungendore, Captains Flat and Braidwood that have been largely unaffected by the COVID-19 virus are adhering to the directive from the NSW RSL to not hold Anzac Day commemorations.

But people in the town, like many in the region, will use their ingenuity to observe the day.

Bungendore War Memorial Committee president Rob Allard said it was very regrettable that they had to cancel this year’s commemorative services.

“Anzac Day is a day of remembrance of those that have served our country, with some making the ultimate sacrifice,” Mr Allard said.

“You are more than welcome to go to the Bungendore Memorial on Anzac Day and lay a wreath, poppy or any other memento of remembrance and pay your respects. Please ensure you adopt the social distancing advice from NSW Health.”

At Braidwood, the RSL Sub-Branch will raise the flag to half-mast and wreaths will be laid while keeping social distancing front of mind.

At 11:00 am, church bells will toll and people are invited to sound their car horns from their driveways or street for five beeps or five seconds. An aircraft will also conduct a flyover. Handmade poppies, bookmarks and placemats are being placed in an honour box near the newsagent.

The singer-songwriter of the iconic I Was Only 19, John Schumann, sums up how people will commemorate Anzac Day this year.

“It’s going to be a very strange Anzac Day,” Mr Schumann said.

“There won’t be any dawn services this year, or marches, or gatherings in pubs. Instead, we’re going to be isolated at home when, ordinarily, we would be standing together as Australians, at a dawn service or on the side of the road watching a march.”

Instead, Schumann and his Vagabond Crew band will live stream a national concert performance on Anzac Eve, 24 April.

The live stream will be free to watch via the John Schumann and the Vagabond Crew Facebook page, but visitors are encouraged to make a donation to Legacy.

The NSW RSL has shared a number of ways Australians can commemorate Anzac Day.

These include recording a video reciting The Ode or a message of support and uploading it to social media via the hashtags #ANZACspirit and #lightupthedawn. People are also encouraged to stand in their driveways, balconies or lounge room and listen to a brief commemorative service being broadcast from the Australian War Memorial.

The Australian War Memorial event will not be open to the public but will be broadcast live across Australia by the ABC and streamed online to other networks to enable people to mark Anzac Day safely and respectfully from home.

Director of the Australian War Memorial Matt Anderson said the COVID-19 pandemic makes this year’s Anzac Day all the more important.

“Across the community, people are drawing upon their own resources to deal with this global health crisis,” Mr Anderson said.

“Anzac Day happens every year and it will happen in 2020, albeit in different circumstances. We are resolute in our commitment to ensuring Australians can honour the Australian servicemen and servicewomen who have served in the past, and recognise those who are currently serving.”

The commemorative service will be attended by dignitaries representing the Commonwealth of Australia, the people of New Zealand, the Returned and Services League and veterans. There will be a ceremonial piper, didgeridoo player and bugler among other traditional elements.

A special pre-recorded Last Post Ceremony will be posted to the Memorial’s digital platforms at 4.55 pm on Anzac Day. The ceremony will feature the story of Private Thomas Anderson Whyte of the 10th Battalion AIF who was killed during the landing at Gallipoli in 1915, read by SGT Shelby Powell of the Royal Australian Air Force.

Soldier On CEO Ivan Slavich believes that this year it’s even more crucial to show support for veterans on Anzac Day. The not-for-profit organisation that assists contemporary veterans and their family members is also hosting a commemorative service on its website.

“The way Australians can participate in Anzac Day services this year is very different from previous years,” Mr Slavich said. “But staying home and adhering to social distancing regulations doesn’t mean we can’t stand united as a nation.

“For example, by standing on your driveway at dawn to pay your respects, or by showing support for veterans on social media, or in your own way at home, you can thank those who have served or are currently serving Australia.”

For more information on the Australian War Memorial’s commemorations, visit AWM.

Original Article published by Michael Weaver on The RiotACT.

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