28 April 2023

Goulburn RSL Sub-Branch defends decision not to invite schoolchildren to march

| Claire Sams
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Silhouette of a soldier

Anzac Day celebrations have been marred by a dispute surrounding schoolchildren taking part. Picture: Elise Searson.

Goulburn RSL Sub-Branch has defended its decision not to invite schoolchildren to participate in its annual Anzac Day march, citing a lack of manpower.

The sub-branch came under fire on social media after one woman complained that the Goulburn RSL Sub-Branch was not “encouraging” children to join the march this year.

“We teach our kids and grandkids the history of family (sic) and should be encouraging them to walk in honour of loved ones that have fought and [passed],” she wrote.

The post received more than 100 comments, with several saying future generations needed to understand the significance of the day.

“There will be no one in our children’s future, who will truly understand and respect this tradition of old, if they are not taught and included NOW and forever,” wrote one person.

“We need our young kids marching if we want Anzac Day to continue,” wrote another.

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However, a spokesperson for the sub-branch said that if all schoolchildren were invited to march, the march could become unwieldy and too large for the small group to manage.

Frank Wilcomes, a representative of Goulburn RSL Sub-Branch, posted a statement on Facebook in response to the criticism.

“Due to the fact we only had six veterans on the ground for the day, the decision had to be made that we could not manage all the schools to participate in the march this year,” it read.

The statement said the decision was made to keep the size manageable and the duration of the march to a reasonable length.

“We believe that, if all schools in the area marched, approximately 4000 to 5000 children, the march would have reached to the top of Auburn Street and […] it would not be approved, by police and council.”

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Only school captains and prefects were invited to march on the day. The sub-branch also said schools were told in late February of the decision and denied they had cited COVID-19 as a reason for the change.

Mr Wilcomes said a decision on participation in the 2024 Anzac Day march would be made “over the next few months”.

He said he was disappointed by what he saw as a narrow reaction to the commemorations.

“We are very disappointed that no comment has been made on the dawn service or main service with local girl Captain Holly Wetherspoon, from Royal Military College, as our special guest, who we believe will inspire local children.”

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