Mark McGowan rubbishes Geraldton RSL decision to can ANZAC Day

Headshot of Elise Van Aken
Elise Van AkenGeraldton Guardian
WA Premier Mark McGowan speaking to media in Geraldton.
Camera IconWA Premier Mark McGowan speaking to media in Geraldton. Credit: Phoebe Pin/Geraldton Guardian

WA Premier has dismissed the Geraldton City RSL’s decision to not hold a public ANZAC Day service this year, saying following the State’s COVID safety restrictions was not expensive.

His comments come after many locals expressed their outrage at the sub-branch’s decision to only hold a private dawn service on April 25 for members and veterans, citing costs and the restrictions as barriers to the event.

Mr McGowan said ANZAC Day Events didn’t need to be exempt from COVID-19 event restrictions as it was “very easy” to hold a compliant event.

“I don’t think that’s the right decision and obviously if Lara Dalton is elected, she will work with the local RSL to ensure there is a proper Anzac Day service and parade here in Geraldton,” he said.

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“Communities all over the State are doing it, including in Perth and other country towns. Geraldton should be able to do it. I’m sure we can work with the RSL to make it happen.

“We worked with RSLWA, the head office, talking with them about it. It is very easy to put on a COVID safe event and it happens all the time.”

He said he sympathised with vulnerable people, like elderly veterans, involved with ANZAC wanting to be cautious.

“To be fair, I think I have been one of the most cautious people in Australia about the issue,” he said.

“But if you put in place a COVID safe management plan and the correct safety measures, they are not expensive - in fact they don’t cost anything - you can put on an event.

“In fact that is what is happening all over the State.”

Two of the region’s other major RSL sub-braches, Gascoyne and Northampton, are going ahead with their 2021 dawn service plans.

City of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn released a statement earlier today calling on the State Government to exempt ANZAC Day services from COVID-19 restrictions and that not doing so would be an “un-Australian absurdity.”

He said a dawn service and march in Geraldton would require fencing the intersection and sections of Chapman Road and Forrest Street outside Birdwood House to control numbers, placing QR codes inside the area and formulating the mandatory safety plan, as well as employing COVID marshals, security guards and traffic controllers.

“The State Government needs to exempt ANZAC Day from the State's, now totally confusing, COVID rules for gatherings over 500 people (as soon as possible) to allow for proper planning for a successful public dawn service event,” he said.

“It is absurd that people can run indoor events at 75 per cent with no need to enforce social distancing, AFL with 40,000 people and large concerts.”

“The logistics alone would cost in the order of $25,000. CGG stands ready to fund this if needed, but the burden on a small RSL committee, supported by CGG staff, is large and it will detract from the event. And if the RSL committee feel it is too much to bear that is their call to be respected.

Yesterday Geraldton City RSL Club president Barry Stinson told The Geraldton Guardian the club’s volunteers reluctantly made its decision after consultation with the council and local police.

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