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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Lest we forget

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THOUSANDS gathered in the Whitsundays, on Tuesday, April 25, for the ANZAC Day Dawn Services and marches, to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC).  

ANZAC Day commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations.

Nearly 1,500 people gathered at the cenotaph, in Cannonvale, for the Dawn Service at 5.30am, followed by the ANZAC march, in Airlie Beach.

Students and teachers from Proserpine State High School, Cannonvale State School and Whitsunday Christian College marched alongside ex-service personnel and current servicemen down the Main Street, to the Airlie Esplanade cenotaph.

Once there, the ANZAC commemorative service was held, led by president of the RSL Airlie Beach Whitsunday sub-branch Terry Brown, undeterred as the rain poured down.

Guest speaker Captain Robert Woodham, an active member of the Navy Reserve, delivered a heart-warming speech, where he spoke not only of fallen ANZAC soldiers but of the often overlooked partisans.

“As the years have passed, our act of remembrance has changed; in the early days, as well as marking a traumatic event that was still in the recent past, there was also a strong theme of creating an Australian national identity,” Captain Woodham said.

“Perhaps we still think of the typical ANZAC as a young bloke with a slouch hat and a rifle, we now acknowledge that the loss and the sacrifice went much deeper than that, there were many women that served as nurses…they lived and worked heroically.

“We also recognise the sacrifices made during the campaign by Turkish people. We understand now that the people who fought in Gallipoli were ordinary, working people that were at the mercy of world events and they didn’t choose to fight.”

In Proserpine, meanwhile, the march began at 10.30am, and onlookers watched as police escorts, school students, ex-servicemen and current servicemen marched down the Main Street.

Present at both marches was the family of Robert J Petersen and Lance Corporal Arthur F. Petersen.

Robert and Arthur Petersen were Indigenous Australians who fought in the Royal Queensland Regiment and the Kennedy/Far North Queensland Regiment, respectively.

They are now honoured by five generations of descendants living in Proserpine.  

In Bowen, thousands of people thronged the streets to honour the servicemen and women who have survived – and those who didn’t return home from – the wars and conflicts.

There were senior citizens to babes-in-arms, who gathered along the route to the Herbert Street cenotaph, first flocking to the starting point, the RSL in Williams Street, on the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam war.

Former warriors wore their medals with pride while their sons and daughters in their 40s, and great-grandchildren, were just as proud to wear medals handed down, or replicas.

The parade itself stretched two blocks with groups proudly marching behind banners listing various military and service groups, as well as schools from Merinda to Queens Beach.

Some described it as the biggest turn-out ever for an Anzac Day remembrance ceremony and it followed an equally big dawn service, when about 350 gathered at the cenotaph, reflecting the growing sentiment throughout the Whitsundays to honour the ANZACS.

Many in the crowd returned to the RSL for a breakfast, prepared by the CWA, which was a full house where former armed forces personnel were treated to a stiff rum!

Padre Mark Steen, parade commander Michael Reinke and Whitsunday Mayor Julie Hall paid tribute to armed services members.

Cr Hall thanked personnel and support groups, such as the Laurel Club, War Widows Association and others, for their recognition of the nation’s most solemn day, and every other day, when they work to improve the lives of families of those who didn’t come back.

Cr Hall said she looked forward to a world without conflict and gave a heartfelt thank you to all service men and women for their dedication to our country.

“We honour our legacy for a better future for all Australians,” she said.

“We respect the ideals of these men and women. Lest we forget.”

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