Australia

#LightUpTheDawn: Australians encouraged to mark Anzac Day from home and check in on a mate

With coronavirus restrictions preventing gatherings at traditional dawn services this year, Australians are being encouraged to honour the fallen outside their homes and invoke the Anzac spirit of mateship.

For many of those who have served in the armed forces, Anzac Day is a chance to catch up with former comrades, share stories, and check in on how each other is doing.  

Afghanistan veteran Douglas Egan, 31, usually starts the day by attending a dawn service, followed by a big breakfast with his mates. 

“Traditionally Anzac Day is very social, you get to see friends and family you wouldn't normally see throughout the year,” he told SBS News. 

“A lot of catching up, things that we did and things that we saw while serving together ... so it is going to be a bit of challenge this year.” 

Douglas Egan
Douglas Egan served with the Royal Australian Air Force and will catch up with his comrades over the phone.
Supplied

Mr Egan served with the Royal Australian Air Force as an airfield defence guard for seven years and is now president of the Springfield RSL in Queensland. 

But as he cannot see his former comrades in person this year due to the coronavirus restrictions, he plans to catch up with them over the phone. 

“Just being there for someone can make all the difference,” he said.

Mateship is one of the core values recognised in the soldiers who fought at Gallipoli and in every conflict since, and it’s that value the Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL) is encouraging people to reflect on this Anzac Day, by reaching out to a mate who may be feeling alone during the lockdown.

“Loneliness is a problem with our veterans,” NSW RSL acting president Ray James said. 

“All we can do is ring them up by phone and talk to them, and talk to them as long as you need to because this is a lonely time. They will be missing their mates they normally meet up with."  

Ray James
NSW RSL acting president Ray James wants to encourage others to look out for veterans on Anzac Day.
SBS News

Mr James said it was important not to doubt the older generations’ ability to use technology, and remember some may just need a hand setting it up.

“I was talking to a couple of guys in their 80s who I know well and I served with, they got together the other day and had a scotch on Skype, as if they were in the pub together,” he said.  

“We have got that technology, I encourage people to help their loved ones who are veterans and not across that, to help them in that space.” 

Driveway and balcony tributes encouraged

The RSL is encouraging Australians to help “light up the dawn” from 6am on Saturday by tuning into an Anzac Day service from their driveway or balcony, where possible. 

“This will be a very different year for us this year, but I see it being a very symbolic year,” RSL Queensland president Tony Ferris said. 

“I think this will encapsulate every Australian and get every Australian involved in an Anzac Day dawn service, which is something we probably haven't seen for a very long time.

The Oatley RSL in southern Sydney has been handing out candles for those in the community to light during their at-home dawn service. 

Oatley RSL candles
The Oatley RSL is handing out free candles for Anzac Day services.
Facebook/Oatley RSL
Many of the street-side services will also include unique renditions of The Last Post, a traditional bugle call in the military, with amateur musicians swapping the sheet music online.

But it is not limited to buglers, with the website Music for Mateship providing The Last Post for those who play the tuba, saxophone and flute, among others.

Nine-year-old Lilly O'Connell from Brisbane is one of those performing this Anzac Day. She has taught herself to play The Last Post on trombone.

“It wasn't actually that hard, but it was a bit tricky as I am used to going fast when I am playing music, but you have to go nice and slow,” she said. 

The O'Connell girls
The O'Connell girls will be honouring their late great uncle Len McDonald on Saturday.
Supplied/Australian War Memorial
"They (the neighbours) applaud her every time she is practicing, which is nice," her mother Meika O’Connell said. 

This year Lilly will be remembering her great uncle Len McDonald, who fought in World War II. 

The retired corporal died last year aged 99.

Australia's national dawn service will be live-streamed on SBS News's website, app and Facebook page from 5.30am on Saturday.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

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