Kiama Dawn Service marred by (local) politics

This year is the second year in a row I’ve walked away from my local ANZAC Day Dawn Service in disgust.

Last year it was the 100th Anniversary of the landings at Gallipoli – yet the main address was all about the later battles and sacrifices in France, because the speaker simply lifted a pre-written and much-used speech from the Australian War Memorial’s web site. Then there were the amateur mistakes like dismissing the crowd at the ‘end’ of proceedings – only to call us back, after prompting, because the National Anthems hadn’t been sung yet.

But these things I could forget and forgive – put them down to human error by well-meaning volunteers ‘just doing their best’.

This year was a whole other kettle of fish though.

This year, in Kiama, NSW, the Dawn Service was hijacked to deliver a purely political message – not once, but three times!!!

The emcee kicked it off in his opening remarks, after thanking all and sundry – local politicians (who weren’t even there, as usual), ‘VIPs’ etc etc until he got to thanking the local council workers for their support and assistance with road closures, parks maintenance etc etc. The usual stuff – which in my opinion is over the top at the best of times.

But this year, he went one further and actually said, ‘if you don’t vote NO to council mergers on 7 May, this might well be the last time we are able to gather here for a Dawn Service’ – or words to that effect.

Not only did he say that – but he actually also prelim-ed it by admitting he sought and received RSL permission to do so.

That to me means, a) it was pre-meditated, b) he knew his intent was sus to start with, and c) the RSL has a seriously warped sense of what the Dawn Service is all about.

Now, at this stage of proceedings, I walked away to calm down, gazing aimlessly to the brightening horizon and listening to the soothing rumble of the waves.

Apparently, in my absence, the Deputy Mayor reinforced the political message when invited to the podium.

I returned to the periphery of the rather large crowd in time to hear Captain Simon Bateman from HMAS Albatross deliver a very nice address, peppered with obviously well-researched local anecdotes.

And thought the day was saved.

Then, after the psalms, odes, Anthems and dismissals, old matey emcee gets up again, this time evoking a quote from no less than Martin Luther King to remind us not to be silent on 7  May when our only option is to vote NO to council mergers….

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”.

And, at first, I thought it might be just me who nearly called out aloud in disgust, being a cranky old sergeant – but the shock I saw on several faces spoke volumes – as do the growing chorus of letters to editors, Facebook comments and grapevine chatter on this here interwebs.

After today’s pathetic performance, I sure-as-the-proverbial hope not to see (or hear) that emcee in that position again next year.

 

27 April 2016: There is an update to this story. The emcee who made the comments has resigned from his position in the RSL and as a local councillor.

While I was a very vocal critic of the comments made on ANZAC Day and very critical of the man (men) who made them, I give full credit and much respect to the man who admits his error and falls on his sword. This type of integrity in our civic leaders and politicians is so very very rare these days.

I wish the man in question well, thank him for (apparently) many years of exemplary service to the Kiama and the veteran communities, and hope he enjoys next year’s ANZAC Day Dawn Service – as a spectator.

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Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

6 thoughts on “Kiama Dawn Service marred by (local) politics

  • 06/06/2017 at 1:27 pm
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    Can relate to the dribble that goes on, with grovelling references to so-called community leaders. The best address at a ceremony was by our GG. No addressing “VIPs” or any of that rubbish. When called, he got up and started :”Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls”, then made his insightful comments and praise for our servicemen and women.

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  • 01/05/2016 at 1:18 pm
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    Great bit of insight in what Politicians are always trying to get their word across even at such an important event. Good to see the RSL member fell on his sword. They should be telling and helping navigate non Military personal in the tradition of Anzac Day.

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  • 01/05/2016 at 12:25 pm
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    I attended then Dawn Service here in Adelaide ( West Torrens Memorial Gardens ) as like in other years the program is taken over by the B coy personnel ( Be here when you go and be here when you get back ). No-one can tell me why they have to lay wreaths first before the return people do.

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  • 27/04/2016 at 7:03 am
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    With you there Sergeant.. If this wasn’t enough to get you to ” fix bayonets and go over the top”
    Bloody disgusting…

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  • 26/04/2016 at 8:08 am
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    They have no right to speak on behalf of the rsl or sub-branch on political issues such as this. I was very disappointed to hear this happ as I wasn’t at the dawn service but am a local and veteran but was at another dawn service…..To say that a service will never happen again if a merge happens is absolutely crap…..that would never be the case or be a reason to no longer run Anzac services. ..

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  • 25/04/2016 at 2:28 pm
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    P.S. I did enjoy the march/stroll in glorious sunshine, being clapped and cheered by a huge crowd of spectators – but didn’t hang around for round two of the speehafying.

    Reply

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