Geraldton’s Anzac Day public events march on to Wonthella Oval after ban backflip

Liam Beatty & Elise Van AkenGeraldton Guardian
Ross Davies, Barry Stinson, Glenn "Sarge" Law, and Mayor Shane Van Styn.
Camera IconRoss Davies, Barry Stinson, Glenn "Sarge" Law, and Mayor Shane Van Styn. Credit: Geraldton Guardian/Elise Van Aken

Wonthella Oval, home to Towns Football Club, will become “Anzac Oval” for a day next month as a public dawn service “for the people” is staged as an alternative to a members-only event.

After a week of public uproar, including from Premier Mark McGowan, the Geraldton RSL scrapped plans to axe the public dawn service. It blamed costs of obeying the State Government’s COVID-19 safety restrictions as making it “almost impossible” to hold a public event as usual at Birdwood House, which in past years has attracted up to 5000 people.

Many locals expressed their outrage at the sub-branch’s decision, arguing if other communities across the State were able to hold a public commemoration, Geraldton could too. After a committee meeting on Monday night, Geraldton RSL branch president Barry Stinson announced the next day “alternative arrangements” had been confirmed with the City of Greater Geraldton and 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 Stinson said the RSL would now be conducting a dawn service and veterans’ march at Wonthella oval on Anzac Day.

“Anyone that wants to come can now attend the Anzac Day service,” he said. “Particularly now we have moved away from our traditional home of Birdwood House for the service, there will be some requirements that we need that we don’t normally have. So if there are any businesses out there or tradesmen that would be willing to assist with some simple construction, we would be grateful, and we’d appreciate any offers of help we can get.”

City of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn, Geraldton City RSL president Barry Stinson, ex-Navy officer and Geraldton City RSL welfare officer and treasurer Glenn “Sarge” Law and club warden and ex-national serviceman Ross Davies at Wonthella Oval.
Camera IconCity of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn, Geraldton City RSL president Barry Stinson, ex-Navy officer and Geraldton City RSL welfare officer and treasurer Glenn “Sarge” Law and club warden and ex-national serviceman Ross Davies at Wonthella Oval. Credit: Elise Van Aken Picture: Geraldton Guardian

Mr Stinson said he expected the RSL might issue tickets ahead of the event to identify how many people were going to attend, and there would be a contact-tracing register at the service.

City of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn said the City fully supported the decision to go forward with a public service.

“This represents a great opportunity for those people who offered to volunteer or provide their assistance to get in touch with the RSL to help with the running of a very successful Anzac Day dawn service,” he said.

“The RSL has listened and we would now respectfully ask people to assist with the event.”

The RSL will now meet with stakeholders to begin organising the event.

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