How 4 sub-Branches are preparing for ANZAC Day

Four RSL sub-Branch members share their sub-Branches’ plans for ANZAC Day commemorations and engaging with school students, current Defence personnel and younger veterans.

At a glance:

  • RSL sub-Branches begin their preparations months in advance, inviting schools to participate in commemorative services, liaising with nearby Defence bases and educating the community about the occasion’s significance.
  • David Howells says the Tamworth RSL sub-Branch organises fundraising events, nursing home visits and other community engagement activities.
  • In Corowa, the dawn service is followed by a community gunfire breakfast and visits to local cemeteries.
  • “We make sure to invite students from the local schools to be part of our services; they’re the future,” says Austinmer-Thirroul RSL sub-Branch President Will Lee.

The road to ANZAC Day starts long before 25 April.

RSL sub-Branches begin their preparations months in advance, inviting schools to participate in commemorative services, liaising with nearby Defence bases and educating the community about the occasion’s significance.

Sub-Branches also coordinate with local councils and emergency services to plan out the logistics of services and marches, making ANZAC Day preparations truly a community effort.

Ultimately, the day is one to remember the service and sacrifice of veterans of all conflicts, and spread word of the RSL’s charitable purpose in support of veterans and their families.

Four RSL sub-Branch members shared their sub-Branches’ plans for ANZAC Day commemorations, and engaging with school students, current Defence personnel and younger veterans.

Camaraderie, community and first responders

“Leading up to ANZAC Day, we hold a number of fundraising activities, including Bunnings barbecues,” says President of Tamworth RSL sub-Branch David Howells. “We utilise local media to get the word out there as well; the local paper and TV stations do a few stories for us.

“We have our regular engagements with schools and nursing homes, where there’s always a good reception. One or two veterans go along and do a five-minute talk before answering questions. And the schools are incorporated into the commemoration service; in fact they run most of it. It’s quite enjoyable to see the kids get so interested in it.

“We were knocked about during COVID, which meant that we couldn’t hold our regular march. Last year we went back to our normal march route, which was received well by the public. The services held at dawn and after the march were attended by large crowds. At this year’s service, we have the commanding officer of the 12th/16th Hunter River Lancers who will be our reviewing officer, and the Regimental Sergeant Major as our guest speaker. We also foster strong community interaction by inviting our first responders.

“We’re already getting emails from those out of town who come in to participate in the march and commemoration services. Some of them are current Defence personnel. It’s a day we all get together and have a meal. There’s a lot of camaraderie, which is really good for the community.

“It’s usually a lot of the older veterans who attend, so it’s about encouraging younger veterans to come along as well. And, hopefully, this year some of them will put their hands up.”

Nicholas Shepley is a younger veteran who has joined the Tamworth RSL sub-Branch. Watch the video below to learn more about his story of leaving Defence and joining an RSL sub-Branch to “remember those who have come before us”.

 

School visits and student-led services

“Our sub-Branch, working with the Kingsgrove RSL Club, holds an ANZAC Day service for schools in early April at the Club,” explains Alan Barnes OAM, President of Kingsgrove RSL sub-Branch and Junior Vice-President of the RSL NSW Far Southern Metropolitan Council. “The students actually do the service themselves under the guidance of a sub-Branch member.”

“Our sub-Branch now has two chapters, Padstow and Campsie, which means we cover a large area containing many schools. We expect to visit seven or eight schools and six or seven preschools, where we have a show and tell with medals, a slouch hat and a bugle. We also conduct a service for the residents at around a dozen nursing homes, which involves singing a hymn and the national anthem.

“The Padstow chapter conducts a community service on the Sunday prior to ANZAC Day, which features members of the sub-Branch and the Club.

“On ANZAC Day, we generally find that a number of younger veterans attend and often sign up at services.”

A gunfire breakfast and a special performance

“At the dawn service, we get a couple of hundred people,” explains Lesley Rinehart, President of Corowa RSL sub-Branch. “Then after the service, we hold a gunfire breakfast with a gold coin donation for anyone wishing to attend. Later, we’ll do our rounds of the local cemeteries before the 11:00 march.

“We’ve formed a committee to take charge of everything that needs to be organised for ANZAC Day. They send out letters to everyone participating, including the Girl Guides. The Corowa Pony Club comes wearing Light Horse uniforms they made from material we supplied a few years ago.

“We have a new Affiliate member who is part of a band. He and another sub-Branch member did a rendition of ‘Coming Home’ on ANZAC Day last year, which was so moving we had them perform on Vietnam Veterans’ Day and Remembrance Day – and they’ll be back this year.

“This reflects an overall effort by our sub-Branch to organise social activities for the community; we now have two or three younger members, including an ex-Army nurse. It’s really great that we have her participation.”

Sharing local history with the next generation

“We run two dawn services, one at the memorial at Austinmer Beach and one in Thirroul,” says Austinmer-Thirroul RSL sub-Branch President Will Lee. “Our sub-Branch then marches as a group in the march organised by the City of Wollongong RSL sub-Branch.

“I do school visits where I get to share a bit of local history with the students. You could hear a pin drop in the silence after I told the story of the ANZACs who went to Gallipoli, for example. It’s important to share something that kids from the primary schools can take in.

“We make sure to invite students from the local schools to be part of our services; they’re the future. We utilise 314 (City of Wollongong) Squadron of the Australian Air Force Cadets as our catafalque party.

“Last year’s service attracted in excess of 1,500 people. It was massive, with people covering the whole area from the carpark to the surf club!”

Get involved in ANZAC Day commemorations at your sub-Branch and learn about activities planned by sub-Branches in communities across the state here.

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