Broadford, Seymour, Kilmore and Wallan Anzac Day ceremonies were a ‘great success’, according to Broadford RSL executive and RSL Victoria vice-president Des Callaghan, with Seymour’s dawn service drawing as many as 1000 people – one of its biggest crowds.
“[Veterans] have felt isolated and they probably felt that they couldn’t honour their war dead, mates and comrades who didn’t come home so the veterans, young to old, were very excited to have the tradition back on the calendar again,” Mr Callaghan said.
Mr Callaghan attended the ceremony at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne for its 60th anniversary of the club’s first Anzac Day meeting, and the 100th anniversary of the Royal Australian Air Force.
“The atmosphere in Flemington was just great, people would shake your hand and thank you for your service,” he said.
Wallan and Kilmore RSL’s services also experienced a higher-than-normal attendance, with close to 500 in Wallan, president Rod Dally estimated.
Mr Dally said Kilmore and Wallan RSL dawn services had been growing each year.
“We were steadily getting bigger anyway, and the day service was the same, it’s growing,” he said
“[But] it’s a bit harder to get some of these newer vets to come out of the woodwork.”
Mr Dally said it was typical of recently-returned service people to take years to re-adjust to life at home.
At the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne this year the crowd was capped at 1400 due to COVID restrictions, with more gathering behind perimeter fences at dawn.
Mr Dally criticised the restrictions, questioning the discrepancy between Anzac Day limits and caps at sports stadiums.
“Back at the MCG they’re allowing 85,000,” he said.
“[Veterans are] happy to be back but they’re absolutely disgusted and miffed that we lost last year. We lost both days [Anzac Day and Remembrance Day] last year … and yet football teams can travel around the country.”
In Kilmore and Wallan, Mr Dally said the veterans at the march demonstrated good physical distancing by walking three abreast, instead of the usual four or five abreast, but no other caps or restrictions were enforced. They also shortened the service.
“I’m delighted with the people who turned up, they were very orderly, they were very respectful,” he said.
Despite an audio hiccup at Kilmore’s dawn service and rain overnight, the weather in the morning was fine and services went to plan.
Mr Dally expressed gratitude for the volunteers across Mitchell Shire who sold Anzac badges this year.
“I’m also extremely grateful to the people of Kilmore and Wallan for the badge sales, looks like we’re going to end up with very, very good results,” he said.
“The fabric of these towns are volunteers and I hope that never gets forgotten.”
Mr Dally said Kilmore and Wallan RSL was always in need of volunteers to sell badges, and encouraged members of the community to express their interest in volunteering in the lead up to Remembrance Day to call Mike Robotham, Kilmore Wallan RSL appeals officer, on 0439 144 876.
Students at Pyalong Primary School recognised Anzac Day with a service on Friday, with members of the Australian Defence Force from Puckapunyal Army Base in attendance. Army Captain Jennifer White gave a speech at the service.
Teacher Narelle Smith said it was the first time an Army catafalque party had attended the school’s Anzac Day service, and the students were excited.
“It’s run by the students. The staff obviously support them, but in the big picture they’re the ones up there showing how they feel and how they appreciate what people have done for us in the past,” she said.
“We have been doing this for a few years, but having a catafalque party and a guest speaker really topped it off today.
“It’s really a chance to give the students an opportunity to understand the significance behind what Anzac Day means to Australians. We don’t want to celebrate war, but commemorate the fallen soldiers.”
Capt White said she enjoyed the opportunity to share the Anzac story with a younger generation.
“Because they don’t understand the concepts of war the same way we might, I think the concepts of mateship and looking after each other are important,” she said.
“With what we’ve gone through with massive shutdowns in Victoria, being able to look after each other and knowing that we’re all in this together resonates.”