ANZAC Day 2020 Community Street Event

23 Jul 2020

Posted April 23, 2020

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie will be participating in a Community Street Event being co-ordinated by RSL branches to commemorate ANZAC Day during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A booklet prepared by the RSL branches for the event can be downloaded here.

Photograph: War Memorial at Penneshaw

RSL branches across the Hills and the State are encouraging families to gather at the end of their driveways at 5.55am on Saturday, April 25, and recite the Ode to the Fallen.

In some townships the Last Post will be sounded, followed by a minute's silence and then the Reveille.

"This is a simple but moving way for us all to pay our respects to our servicemen and women while also maintaining social distancing protocols during the current health crisis," Rebekha said.

"I was also pleased to support the Macclesfield, Nairne, Mount Barker and Littlehampton RSL branches and the Mount Barker Council in providing a message for their ANZAC booklet for families.

"This booklet has been distributed to post offices and businesses open to the public and they contain messages from community leaders, the words for the Ode to the Fallen, fun activities for children and the recipe for Mayor Ann Ferguson's famous ANZAC biscuits. The booklet can also be downloaded on my website."

"ANZAC Day will be very different this year but as a community we have proven to be extremely resilient and I believe we can make this special day just as respectful and meaningful as events run in previous years."

The following is the message provided by Rebekha for the RSL booklet.

"When I stop to reflect on the meaning of ANZAC Day I think of young people.

The gender balance is changing in the defence forces and we know that women certainly did not remain untouched by war, but for the most part our history shows that it was our young men who were sent into battle to make the ultimate sacrifice.

As a mother of two young men I find that confronting. My heart goes out the mothers and the families in Australia in 1914 who waved farewell to their young men as they departed for the battlefields of World War 1.

Too few returned. For a relatively young nation with a relatively small population this loss was felt deeply.

Between 1914 and 1918 Australia had a population of four million people. Just under 39 per cent of the able-bodied male adult population enlisted, that is 416,809 Australians aged 18 to 44 years.

Over 60,000 were killed, 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner and nearly 88,000 suffered from war-related diseases or conditions.

That is a staggering percentage. No community was left untouched and you can see the legacy of the impact of that grief in the war memorials, the war memorial halls and the war memorial hospitals that exists in just about every Australian locality.

The United Kingdom lost nearly five times as many men as Australia and New Zealand in the brutal Gallipoli campaign in Turkey. The French lost more men than the Australians.

But our losses, both as a proportion of our forces committed and of our small populations, were terrible.

More than Federation, this campaign drew Australia into nationhood, bloodied and scarred.

All losses on all sides were terrible.

I did a tour of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra for the first time last month.

As parliamentarian you are either working in Parliament House, or sleeping in a hotel, when in Canberra but I was determined to make some time to visit some of the sites of our nation’s capital.

Many people told me that the War Memorial would be a highlight. For me it was emotionally overwhelming.

There was so much needless loss, so much cruelty; I found it difficult to process.

It is also worth noting, in today’s current pandemic, that a century ago Australia faced a similar health emergency at the tail end of World War 1 when the Spanish flu came to our shores.

Shocking fatalities were still being reported from on the European western front when the first cases appeared in 1918.

From 1919 onwards about 40 per cent of the Australian population (mostly aged between 25 and 40 – a similar demographic to the WW1 fighting force) would contract the flu.

This pandemic (which actually started in the United States, not Spain) ended up killing 13,000 Australians and more than 20 million people worldwide.

We were a country that had become accustomed to high death rates during the war years but this pandemic affected us significantly.

But it could have hit us even harder if the governments of the day had not acted, introducing public education campaigns, maritime and state border quarantine measures and bans on large public gatherings.

Social isolation and quarantine measures worked. It spread the impact over a longer time frame and bought the healthcare system of the day more time.

Historians believe another 10,000 to 15,000 people would have died without these measures.

Australia is much larger, our healthcare system is significantly better today and COVID-19 is less deadly, for our young people at least.

However, now is time for Australians to show the same selfless duty to nationhood that our war-weary population demonstrated a century ago and follow the social distancing protocols.

We are living in extraordinary circumstances and at a time of tremendous concern for many in our communities.

We must remember that we are a community and we are all in this together."

Rebekha Sharkie

Federal Member for Mayo

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