The gates of St Mary’s College in Seymour were adorned with Anzac imagery. ​

By Max Davies

A wide range of services attended by some of the largest crowds seen in the area made this year’s Anzac Day one to remember for veterans and community members.

With services run across the Mitchell Shire throughout the day, including dawn services in Kilmore and Wallan and services at Willowmeade and Caladenia nursing homes, the Anzac Day commemorations saw people of all ages pay their respects to those who were lost at war.

Kilmore Wallan RSL president Rod Dally said it was moving to be recognised and appreciated on Anzac Day, especially with younger generations becoming more involved each year.

“I can’t explain how it makes you feel. When you see those people when you’re marching up the street and they’re clapping, especially after the kicking we got when we got back from Vietnam – that really gives you a sense of pride,” he said.

“The kids, the younger people have been absolutely brilliant. To have them understand what it was all about from their parents and teachers is really important.”

In addition to services in towns across the Mitchell Shire, schools including Broadford Secondary College, Wallan Secondary College, Wandong Primary School and Wallan Primary School hosted services, which were also attended by veterans and RSL representatives.

Mr Dally said he was especially proud of the service at St Patrick’s Primary School in Kilmore, which was carried out almost entirely by students.

“At St Pats it’s wonderful, the kids actually do it all. They had a speaker this year, which was one of our vets and they normally do that,” he said.

“They’ve also donated a mural that’s on the wall of our hall now, so people can scan the QR codes and learn about the soldiers’ stories and how they felt about it all. It’s very interesting.

“At schools they’re really teaching the kids about the respect these people deserve, and what their service meant for the lives they live today. It’s just amazing to watch it and see it in the schools.

“Wars aren’t fun, we don’t celebrate war. We get that message across whenever we can while we celebrate the courage of people who were prepared to defend their country and their freedom, their way of life.”

An addition to the commemorations this year were members of the Mitchell Shire’s Sikh community, who joined representatives from community groups, Mitchell Shire Council, parliament and students from Wandong Primary School to lay wreaths at the Wandong memorial.

The Sikh Anzac history dates back to World War One when members of the Sikh community in Australia enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, and it is estimated about 22 per cent of the British Indian Army were Sikh at the same time.

At Pyalong’s Anzac Day service, 250 people, including Mitchell Shire Mayor Fiona Stevens and Cr Bill Chisholm, attended the town’s memorial gardens in beautiful sunny conditions.

The Pyalong Community Commemoration began with a march along High Street to the gardens, led by Rats of Tobruk Pipe and Drums Band piper Les Kenfield.

The Army School of Transport, Puckapunyal, provided the catafalque party and other ceremonial roles, as well as the guest speaker Lieutenant Lachlan Atkins.

Lieutenant Atkins spoke of the century-old Anzac tradition and how it is still relevant to modern Australia. Other speakers included retired Victoria Police Commander Eric Sutton and Bec Frederickson.

Vietnam veteran and Melbourne singer-songwriter John Hunter sung his own composition ‘The Ones Who Marched Away’, which he wrote after his service in Vietnam. The ceremony concluded with Pyalong Primary School students singing the Australian National Anthem.