THOUSANDS of people commemorated the 99th anniversary of Anzac Day at services in the Kiama and Shellharbour municipalities.
By PHIL McCARROLL
The Dawn Service organised by the Warilla RSL Sub-Branch at the Shellharbour Village War Memorial attracted a crowd of between 1000-1500, while hundreds more turned out to the Shellharbour City Council service at the Shellharbour City Memorial.
At the Shellharbour City service, numerous community groups laid wreaths at the memorial and historical military aircraft conducted a fly past.
Long-time Warilla RSL Sub–Branch member and current vice-president Don Briggs said it was pleasing to see the crowds at the services growing each year.
‘‘The one that has grown the most is the Dawn Service at Shellharbour Village, there somewhere between 1000 - 1500 people there this morning, when we started a few years ago there was four of us there,’’ he said.
‘‘The Shellharbour Village memorial is the only actual memorial in the city and it’s great that the public are coming out to pay their respects in front of it, you look at the people laying wreaths and you can see the enormous sense of pride they have for their country and for the men and women who have served.’’
Warilla RSL Sub-Branch president Kim Kearney presided over the Shellharbour City service and said the large crowds were evident of how entrenched Anzac Day has become in the national calendar.
‘‘Every year more and more people are turning up and it’s great to see, everywhere you go across Australia you’ll see crowds like this and it shows just how much of a national day Anzac Day has become,’’ he said.
‘‘Even though next year is the 100th anniversary of Anzac Day, crowds like this show that that the sacrifice of those in World War I is never going to be forgotten.’’
While the day may be the anniversary of the first landing of Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli during World War I, Mr Kearney said it was as much about recognising all Australian service men and women as it is those who fought nearly 100 years ago.
‘‘The day is about remembrance, and that’s remembering everybody who has fought for their country, no matter when and where that was.
‘‘What Peter Fulton used to always say at the service at Wollongong was ‘remember the warrior not the war’ and that’s the message of what today is about, remembering the sacrifices people have made for us and for this country.’’
Shellharbour City Mayor Marianne Saliba said it was encouraging to see the number of young attending the services.
‘‘Each year more and more young people are attending and that’s great to see, it’s important we pass on what people have done for this country in the past so that future generations understand that the freedoms we have today have been hard fought for.’’
By BRENDAN CRABB
A FEW THOUSAND Kiama residents gathered to honour the anniversary of Anzac Day on Friday.
Kiama hosted its Anzac Day dawn service at the Memorial Arch.
The dawn service was attended by an estimated thousand people, despite the wet conditions.
This was followed by a Commemoration of Anzac Ceremony, which included a wreath-placing ceremony, and address by guest speaker, former Army officer, historian and author Gary McKay.
The march and service began at 10.30am from the council chambers in Manning Street to the Memorial Arch.
Mr McKay of Kiama Downs, 66, served in Vietnam with the 4th Battalion, an Anzac Battalion.
He was severely wounded in battle in September 1971, spending the next 12 months in and out of hospital.
He was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry.
Mr McKay provided the gathering with an overview of World War I and its aftermath.
‘‘The impact of the war was not confined to the battlefields; it was also felt at home,’’ he said.
‘‘Families and communities grieved deeply following the loss of so many men, and we can see it on the tablets behind me here today.”
Kiama-Jamberoo RSL Sub-Branch president Ian Pullar also addressed the crowd.
“The Anzacs never lost their sense of pride and determination to succeed – and succeed they did to an extent which is now legend in the annals of military history,’’ he said.
‘‘We owe them and all those who have served and are still serving throughout Australia’s military history an enormous debt, which we in some measure repay with this commemoration.
‘‘Whether their names be engraved in stone or cast in bronze, they would indeed be proud to know that we have not forgotten.”
Kiama’s Neil Hawkins, 92, served in World War II as part of the Air Force’s 460 Squadron.
He was part of the bomber command operating in Germany.
Mr Hawkins said he regularly attended Kiama’s Anzac Day services.
‘‘It was well-organised, well-attended, and showed the true spirit of the remembrance of the fallen,’’ he said.
He also took the opportunity to reflect on his wartime efforts, which included ‘‘bombing Nazi Germany for a long time’’.
‘‘Our squadron was the top-leading Australian squadron, and operated over a long time,’’ he said.
‘‘I didn’t enjoy what we did, but we did it very well and saved a lot of lives.’’
TO many, Anzac Day Day is an opportunity to watch veterans and serving military members march along our streets and assemble in front of cenotaphs and shrines as we honour our fallen from conflicts past and present.
To this country’s great credit, Anzac Day has become more than just another holiday and the increasing numbers at ceremonies in Kiama and the broader Illawarra is clear evidence of this. Our community collectively pays its respect to those who have made sacrifices in the service of this country. For that, we can be rightly proud.
But Anzac Day should be more than just a day of commemoration. Commemorating soldiers is not the same as connecting with them, engaging with them and learning from them.
Commemorating soldiers is not the same as connecting with them, engaging with them and learning from them.
This region has a large veteran population comprising men and women who served at home and abroad in advancing Australia’s interests. These men and women have a story to tell. While we properly commemorate the landings at Gallipoli and the generation of Australians who served in that conflict a century ago, we should concurrently engage with our contemporary veterans in order to share their story.
This is a story of Australia’s coming of age as a regional middle power in its own right in Vietnam and in Confrontation, the lesser known conflict of that period in Malaysia. This is a story of professional soldiers who have served in multiple theatres of conflict from Iraq to East Timor to Afghanistan.
As we draw down from combat operations in Afghanistan, it may surprise many in our community that Australian forces have been in that country for more than a decade now – longer than any other similar military commitment on Australia’s part.
How much does the Australian population really know about Australia’s role in stabilising regional neighbours such as East Timor or our role in contributing to longer-term stability and reconstruction in Afghanistan? An accusation has recently been leveled that a yawning chasm exists between our soldiers and the society they serve. I, for one, do not agree with this accusation. I do, however, believe our society can benefit from greater engagement with our contemporary veterans. Such engagement has the two-fold benefit of educating and informing our broader populace whilst welcoming our returning Service men and women back into mainstream society. This sends a very powerful message – ‘you have rendered valuable service and we want to hear your story’.
In recent months, I have had the enormous pleasure of speaking with service organisations, schools and community groups in the Kiama municipality and further afield about my experience in the profession of arms in operational theatres overseas. These presentations have ranged from serious discussions on Australia’s achievements in Afghanistan in a bid to overcome perceptions that we are in a quagmire in that conflict, to the ‘hearts and minds’ component of Australia’s concept of operations to a more light-hearted analysis of leadership engagement and rebuilding in East Timor.
I am, undoubtedly, proud of my service but I am similarly proud that these organisations invite me to speak and have embraced me into their fold. I have little doubt, all in attendance at these presentations learned something or, at least, walked away with a greater appreciation of Australia’s military contribution to stability efforts regionally and internationally.
In remembrance of fallen Australians we recite an ode which concludes with the phrase Lest we Forget. This simple statement of commitment extends beyond honouring the supreme sacrifice made by too many to include remembering the sacrifices made by returning veterans. The RSL is as much about the living as it is about the dead. This ANZAC Day I encourage Kiama residents to both honour the dead and embrace the living in the true spirit of ANZAC.
Glenn Kolomeitz is a Vice President of Gerringong RSL Sub-branch, a pro bono advocate with the Illawarra Veterans’ Entitlement Service at Jamberoo and a veteran of special operations in Afghanistan and East Timor.