WA’s home of Anzac to go without iconic dawn service

Albany Advertiser
A Company 11/28th Batallion's Cpl Jeremy Cullen.
Camera IconA Company 11/28th Batallion's Cpl Jeremy Cullen. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

WA’s spiritual home of the Anzac Day dawn service will be forced to go without the service for the first time since Australia was under direct attack nearly 80 years ago.

The spread of COVID-19 has led to the cancellation of dozens of events across the Great Southern.

The dawn service is one of the latest traditions to fall victim to the coronavirus, with RSLWA chief executive John McCourt announcing a Statewide ban on RSL-run Anzac Day services.

RSLWA president Peter Aspinall, an Albany man, said it was “extremely disappointing” for the town to lose its Anzac Day commemorations but it was the right decision.

“I understand it is the first time since at least the Second World War where there’s been a cancellation of Anzac Day commemorations,” he said.

“In light of the Prime Minister’s statement last Friday and the declaring of states of emergencies in some Australian States, it was incumbent upon us to follow those instructions.

“It is a great disappointment but understandable in the light of the coronavirus issue.

“At the State branch when we made that decision, we were mindful of the demographic that we represent. We have a significant number of our members who are in the most vulnerable age groups.”

Peter Aspinall
Camera IconPeter Aspinall Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser, Laurie Benson

Mr Aspinall said the State branch was in discussions with sub-branches about how they could conduct limited commemorations to help the WA public pay their respects.

He said they were exploring the options of pre-recorded services which could be broadcast on radio, TV and social media.

“It’s going to take us a little while to sort out what we can do,” he said.

Retired Major Laurie Fraser, interim president of the Albany RSL sub-branch, said regardless of the restrictions forced by COVID-19, West Australians could still honour the legacy of defence force personnel.

“People can stop what they’re doing and have a little think about the sacrifices that were made and continue to be made for this country,” he said.

Yesterday, a Southern Ports spokeswoman confirmed that all five cruise ship visits to Albany scheduled for the rest of March had been cancelled. There are no cruise ship visits scheduled until June.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s advisory against mass public gatherings last Friday triggered a procession of event cancellations.

The Albany International Folk ‘N’ Shanty Festival, Festival of the Sea, Food for Thought, Gate 2 Plate and Greenskills’ Sustainable Community Festival were some of the first Albany events to announce cancellations.

Taste Great Southern organisers have announced the cancellation of all 30 of their events, and the City of Albany has cancelled the South West Street Fest.

Outside Albany, the Katanning Harmony Festival and Cranbrook Show were also scrapped.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails