Geraldton RSL announces plans to hold Anzac Day dawn service with ‘alternative arrangements’

Liam Beatty & Elise Van AkenGeraldton Guardian
Geraldton sub-district RSL president Barry Stinson.
Camera IconGeraldton sub-district RSL president Barry Stinson. Credit: Geraldton Guardian

Following a week of public uproar, the Geraldton RSL have decided to scrap plans to hold a members-only Anzac Day dawn service in favour of an “alternative” event at Wonthella Oval.

Last week, the Geraldton Guardian reported to Geraldton City RSL had decided to only host a private service this year, citing the cost of adhering to State Government COVID-19 safety restrictions as making it “almost impossible” to hold a public event at Birdwood House.

Many locals expressed their outrage at the sub-branch’s decision, arguing if other communities across the State were able to hold a commemoration — Geraldton could too.

Following a committee meeting on Monday night, Geraldton branch RSL president Barry Stinson today announced “alternative arrangements” had been confirmed with the City of Greater Geraldton and the Towns Football Club.

“There’s been a vigorous debate out in the community which is great to see,” he said.

“People are concerned and certainly we've taken notice. We've been working on this solution to our problem for quite some time.”

Mr Stintson said the RSL would now be conducting a Dawn Service and Veteran’s March at Wonthella oval on Anzac Day.

He said the reason the RSL had turned down the City of Greater Geraldton’s offer of $25,000 to fund COVID-19 safety measures was because the Birdwood House would only be able to accommodate 1000 people.

“Our normal attendance is in excess of 4000 people so there was still going to be a lot of people that could not enjoy Anzac Day,” he said.

“Anyone that wants to come can now attend the Anzac Day service.”

“It was very disappointing to cancel the event last year. This year, it’s fantastic that we're able to go back… and put on this event for veterans and the community.”

He expects the RSL may decide to issue tickets ahead of the event to identify how many people were going to come and there would be a contact tracing register at the service.

City of Greater Geraldton mayor Shane Van Styn said the city was fully supportive of the decision to go forward with a service.

“Hopefully the outpouring of community support will lead to a successful event,” he said.

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