With traditional Anzac Day commemorations either cancelled or significantly scaled back due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an idea that would see Australians unite in a collective dawn service from their homes is gathering momentum.
Ringwood and Croydon RSL sub-branches are supporting a grassroots movement calling for people to stand at the end of their driveway, on their front porch or in their living room to remember all those who have served and sacrificed.
At 6am on Saturday 25 April, Croydon RSL sub-branch Treasurer John Woolhouse will stand to attention at the end of his driveway to honour veterans, past and present.
Mr Woolhouse said the ‘Driveway at Dawn’ movement spreading across social media had caught his attention in a Facebook post shared by his nephew. So taken was he with the idea, he took to social media to spread the word.
“I think it’s an excellent idea. Not being able to take part in services this year will be a big gap in a lot of people’s day. At least this way we can still show our respect,” Mr Woolhouse said.
The idea has resonated across the country and the world, with the Facebook page – Aussies & Kiwis for ANZACs – attracting more than 210,000 followers in less than a month of being created.
Victorian RSL chief executive Jamie Twidale has also endorsed the idea and is calling for people to mark the occasion using #standto on their social media channels.
Mr Woolhouse said it would be the first year in a long time that he would not be attending the local dawn service.
“I’ve been a member at Croydon for over 20 years, 17 years as treasurer. I might’ve missed the odd service, but in the last say 10 to 15 years I’ve attended just about each one,” he said.
It was also a tough time for volunteers who would normally be out fundraising for the ANZAC Appeal but who couldn’t because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“Leading up to Anzac Day is a busy time for us, but we can’t be out face-to-face selling badges,” he said.
“Now all of a sudden we’re in isolation…it’s sad from that point of view.”
Despite the disappointment of not being able to gather together, he says we can all take inspiration from the Anzacs and their incredible endurance.
Mr Woolhouse said anyone wishing to support the ANZAC Appeal could make an online donation on the ANZAC Day appeal website. Money raised through the annual fundraiser will go towards funding vital services for veterans and their families.
In the absence of a traditional dawn service and march, the Croydon RSL will hold a service at the Croydon War Memorial attended only by the sub-branch’s President John Hexter, who will lay a single wreath.
The Ringwood RSL will proceed with a service at the Ringwood Memorial Clocktower, however with no veterans’ march and no members of the public present.
Ringwood RSL President and Vietnam Veteran David Jamison will lead a ceremony and lay a wreath. At dawn, a lone bugler will sound The Last Post before a minute’s silence.
Mr Jamison said he was encouraged to see the alternative ways for people to pay their respects being shared on social media.
“There is no other way we as a community can come out and commemorate the day…I think a driveway vigil is a brilliant idea,” he said.
Mr Jamison said he was acutely aware that people should not congregate at the Cenotaph, although for anyone wishing to place a wreath he encouraged them to visit throughout the day, so long as they maintained social distancing rules.
“It’s going to be seriously weird. People who have served with the Australian Defence Force have had to go through periods of weird, and it’s just going to be one of those times,” he said.
RSL Victoria will be streaming a special edition of the 2020 Anzac Day Dawn Service live from the Shrine of Remembrance, starting at 6am.