Premier’s awkward Albany presser

Michael TraillAlbany Advertiser
Premier of Western Australia Mark McGowan and State president RSL Peter Aspinall at Albany's National Anzac Centre.
Camera IconPremier of Western Australia Mark McGowan and State president RSL Peter Aspinall at Albany's National Anzac Centre. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser

With Princess Royal Harbour as the backdrop, Mark McGowan’s first public appearance in Albany on Sunday should have been a relatively routine photo opportunity.

Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with RSLWA president Peter Aspinall, Mr McGowan handed over the State Government’s annual Lotterywest cheque for Anzac Day services.

But the photo opportunity came less than two hours after RSLWA announced they would review their decision to ban the Welcome to Country at Anzac Day dawn services and Remembrance Day services.

Standing outside National Anzac Centre, Mr Aspinall apologised for any “misunderstandings” of the organisation’s intentions.

“If there was offence taken, it was certainly never intended and I would apologise for whatever offence has been taken,” he said.

“I believe it’s a misunderstanding of what we intended in the way we wrote the culture respect policy.”

Mr McGowan, who was quick to speak out against the ban last Friday, welcomed the reversal.

“I know it has been a very difficult period for the RSL,” he said in Albany. “I think the memory of our servicemen and women who have died and our servicemen and women who have served should be above controversy and it is important it continue to be acknowledged by all Australians in a respectful and dignified way.

“The stories of Aboriginal men and women who have served ... is an extraordinary one and I think it is something that deserves all of our respect and all of our acknowledgement.”

The Premier also addressed the controversy around the fight for funding to keep Albany’s Anzac Day services at the level people became accustomed to during the World War I centenary period.

He said Albany’s RSL sub-branch receives the most funding of any regional WA sub-branch.

“Those funding decisions are those of the RSL,” he said.

“The biggest contribution goes to the City of Perth, following that as I understand it, goes to the Albany RSL.”

After last year’s Anzac Day services, the Advertiser received letters from residents disappointed with the lack of a big screen at Anzac Peace Park and the relocation of the traditional gunfire breakfast.

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