1 April 2020

Hilltops Council resists calls for public airing of the Last Post on Anzac Day

| Edwina Mason
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The Young Town Hall Memorial Tower

Hilltops Council has resisted calls for the Last Post to be played from the Young Town Hall Memorial Tower on Anzac Day due to COVID-19 restrictions and fears it would attract crowds. Photo: Edwina Mason.

There’s nothing that Young RSL sub-branch president John Walker would like to hear more on Anzac Day than the Last Post.

Mr Walker, who also serves the town as a councillor, had a novel idea for the April 25 commemoration, but it was quickly snuffed out by Hilltops Council.

Anzac Day services across the nation were cancelled on March 16 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Australians are being called to honour the day by standing at the end of their driveways or on balconies for one minute’s silence.

Although he acknowledges the seriousness of the COVID-19 situation, Mr Walker is supportive of the initiative.

“It originally came from RSL Queensland and it seems quite logical to me,” he said. “We can’t just forget Anzac Day exists and not commemorate it. As long as we just stop for five minutes, I think it is a good concept.”

Mr Walker said this year is the first time Anzac Day services have been cancelled since 1919, which was due to the Spanish flu outbreak.

But encouraged by support from the local community – which has established the Young NSW Driveway Anzac Service group on Facebook, with 690 members – he suggested the Last Post be played from the Young Town Hall Memorial Tower at dawn.

The famous bugle call signifies the end of the military day, but has evolved into a symbol of recognition for soldiers who have been laid to rest. It is traditionally played at dawn every Anzac Day.

“From the Memorial Tower, it would have been very fitting,” said Mr Walker. “Unfortunately the council felt it could encourage people onto the street.”

Young RSL sub-branch president John Walker.

Young RSL sub-branch president John Walker. Photo: Supplied.

In a statement last week, Hilltops Council said they regretted that, due to current COVID-19 restrictions, they were unable to facilitate the utilisation of council facilities such as Young Town Hall for Anzac Day commemorations.

“Council recognises the intention of the innovative idea of RSL sub-branch president John Walker to commemorate the occasion and is saddened the idea will not come to fruition.”

Hilltops Council general manager Anthony O’Reilly said the Anzac Day commemoration is very close to his heart.

“While I am disappointed the day will look quite different this year, I cannot allow our community to be put at risk,” he said.

“We must follow the direction of the Australian Government and, regrettably, that means not encouraging people to congregate in our main streets, even if it is for a worthy cause.”

Mr Walker said he was extremely disappointed the Young RSL could not proceed with the idea.

“However, I do understand the seriousness of the current situation and its escalation, and respect the decision based on protecting our community,” he said, before adding he would take every opportunity “to commemorate the great sacrifice of our Anzacs” and would work closely with all authorities regarding any options available.

Meanwhile, the Young NSW Driveway Anzac Service Facebook group is keeping the Anzac spirit alive in almost military fashion, printing and distributing information leaflets and supplying Australian flags for residents to adorn their mailboxes. Wreaths are expected to be laid in shop windows and on driveways.

Mr Walker said there is nothing to stop people from laying wreaths at memorials around the region on Anzac Day provided they follow social distancing guidelines.

And thanks to local volunteer James Wall, Young community radio station 2YYY will broadcast The Ode, the Last Post, one minute’s silence and Reveille from 5:58 am on Anzac Day.

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Bill Cameron9:21 am 04 Apr 20

What would be wrong with setting up 4 speakers in the bell tower facing N, S, E & W and having played over the speakers.

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