Commemorating in the time of COVID

BY ADAM BLACKSHAW

Despite the impact of COVID-19, Australians still  found creative ways to commemorate Anzac Day in 2020.

Light Up the Dawn

There were no public services, no marches and no physical catch-ups between veterans for Anzac Day 2020. The impact of COVID-19 restricted large public gatherings of all kinds and the traditional Anzac Day commemorations were no exception.

Normally this important national day is marked by sombre dawn vigils, memorial services, reunions among members of the armed services and two-up games that take place in all cities and most smaller towns.

The march has long been the centrepiece of Anzac Day and attracts thousands of servicemen and women and spectators who line the streets, paying their respects to those who served their country in war and peacetime. But the global pandemic meant the cancellation of all the usual annual events.

Not to be defeated, veterans kickstarted a virtual ceremony which became known as the Driveway at Dawn, later championed by the Returned and Services League of Australia and renamed Light Up the Dawn.

‘It's not the same’, says one veteran in the clip below from Nine News, but perhaps these alternative ceremonies that played out in neighbourhoods were more personal and intimate, and for some participants more meaningful:

Anzac At Home

The banning of mass gatherings opened up opportunities for communities to create their own ceremonies, often with members of younger generations playing a central role and sometimes performing the traditional 'Last Post'.

The creativity didn’t stop there. In the clip from Nine News below we see a parading bagpipe player in a retirement village, Melbourne Airport staff observing silence in front of grounded planes, children chalking tributes on footpaths and even a pilot using his plane to map out the Anzac Rising Sun insignia above Melbourne:

Anzac Day 2021

A year on, while Australia is still vigilant about COVID-19, there have been exemptions made for Anzac Day 2021. Different restrictions are in place for each state and territory; in many cases, dawn services and marches are ticketed events or require online registration. Spectators are asked to wear masks, sanitise their hands and practise social distancing.

After 2020's community commemorations, it’s likely that neighbourhoods will continue to devise their own ways to pay respects to those who have served their country.

You can leave a personalised message of remembrance online at the virtual poppy wall created by the Australian War Memorial and Department of Veterans’ Affairs for #AnzacAtHome.