ANZAC Day in 2020 simply won’t be what we’re used to.
The quiet shuffling of feet in the pre-dawn, The Last Post cutting through the quiet of the crowd and the first rays of dawn illuminating the togetherness that’s synonymous with this day of remembrance: none of this is possible because of Covid-19 and restrictions under the Public Health Act.
The idea that gathering like this could land you with hefty fines sounds bizarre, but our nation isn’t usually grappling with the impacts of a pandemic like this.
Brunswick Heads-Billinudgel RSL sub branch president Darren Gray said the change had been hard for many of their veterans, particularly those who are more elderly.
Mr Gray said his first Anzac Day after he enlisted – spent in Sydney – was a huge deal for him, and it’s been the same since. The sub branch has stressed the importance of paying your respects even in these isolated times.
The public have been encouraged to stand at the end of their driveways at dawn and tune into a live-streamed ceremony from the Australian War Memorial.
The gates to the Brunswick Heads cenotaph and memorial, on Fawcett St, will be open from 5am on Saturday and they will remain open until dusk.
A NSW Police Force spokeswoman was unable to clarify whether laying a wreath would fall under “essential” reasons for leaving your home, but said people should stay home except for essential travel.
However, the sub-branch executives said people would be welcome to lay wreaths if they did so without gathering with others, and while adhering to all physical distancing rules that are currently in place to help stop the spread of Covid-19.
Vice president John McKay said people could still pay their respects.
Mr McKay said the restrictions on public gatherings were hard to accept for many of their members, particularly those who were more elderly.
“They just can’t comprehend that they can’t get together.”
He said they were trying to stay connected with their members during this time of social isolation, through phone calls and emails.
He said the Brunswick Heads service had been attracting some 1000 people in recent years, with this time of commemoration also a key opportunity for school students to connect with the history that defines Anzac Day.
This year, a school choir involving students from three school’s won’t be able to perform.
Byron Bay sub-branch president Bob Crosthwaite said, aside from existing bans on public gatherings, there had been a directive that there be no Anzac Day service of any kind take place and that anyone who did attend a cenotaph or memorial did so as a private citizen.
The national commemorative service will be streamed live from 5am Saturday. Visit awm.gov.au/AnzacAtHome.