While many Australian soldiers are returning home for Anzac Day, some will travel back to communities they served during Operation Bushfire Assist 2019-20.
Photo by Corporal Olivia Cameron.
Troops are taking part in commemorations in communities where they have a strong connection – either the place they think of as home, or where they bonded with locals during the devastating summer fires.
Around 130 officers and soldiers are on the move across the nation, visiting places like Eden on the NSW’s south coast, Mallacoota in Victoria and Kangaroo Island in South Australia.
Commander Forces Command Major General Matt Pearse said it was important for soldiers to preserve the connections they have built in some of the worst fire-affected areas.
“As the COVID-19 restrictions ease, we are taking this chance to get some of our soldiers back to the areas they were working in during the fires,” Major General Pearse said.
“This is an opportunity to strengthen Army’s commitment and contribution to our community.
“Many of those communities have asked us to make a particular effort to get our people back to show their appreciation for the work they did.”
Troops from brigades, training centres and units in Brisbane, Darwin, Adelaide and Sydney will be among those travelling to fire-affected communities.
Adelaide-based soldiers from the 1st and 9th Brigades will be in Kangaroo Island, with the NSW-based 5th Brigade sending troops from Canberra to Eden.
“While we’re always working hard to connect with everyone who lives nearby, there is of course often another place we think of as home, or where we have a deep connection with a community that time and distance cannot erode,” Major General Pearse said.
“As we get back to our core business of training for war , it’s good for us to pause and gather with the communities we are from, and where we have served during these extraordinary times.
“It’s an opportunity to return, reunite and remember.”
Meanwhile, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester said around 20,000 ADF personnel and Cadets would contribute support to Anzac Day activities around Australia.
“This Anzac Day, tens of thousands of Australian Defence Force personnel will be providing ceremonial support to regional towns, schools, veteran and community groups, local memorials and aged care facilities,” Mr Chester said.
“The ability to gather in person to honour our service men and women is a welcome return.
“Last year, in the face of a global pandemic, we found new ways to honour those who have served.
“Anzac Day is an important opportunity to reflect on and commemorate the sacrifices of our people, both domestically and overseas.
“I am proud of all personnel who are playing a part in services across the country.”
In addition to the national service at the Australian War Memorial, which will be televised and live-streamed by the ABC, Defence personnel will be represented in countless communities across Australia.
Key services include:
- Royal Australian Navy ships HMAS Sheean and HMAS Armidale participating in the Dawn Service in Latrobe, Tasmania, followed by a commemorative march and lunch.
- The Royal Australian Air Force will host a Dawn Service and a commemorative march in Townsville, Queensland – and several aircraft flyovers are planned around the country.
- Army as mentioned in the main story above.
ADF support will range from catafalque parties and marching contingents to musicians, wreath layers and guest speakers.