Oval service angers veterans

Phoebe Pin & Elise Van AkenGeraldton Guardian
Veteran of 23 years Alex McKenzie.
Camera IconVeteran of 23 years Alex McKenzie. Credit: Lisa Favazzo/The Geraldton Guardian

Some Geraldton veterans are considering boycotting the Anzac Day dawn service if it is held at Wonthella Oval instead of Birdwood House.

Geraldton RSL last week back-flipped on its decision to axe the public dawn service when it announced a public ceremony would be held at the home of Towns Football Club.

RSL member Alex McKenzie served in the Royal Australian Regiment for more than two decades, with almost 10 years of his service spent overseas in conflicts in Korea, Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam.

Mr McKenzie said he was disappointed by the venue change and might not attend the dawn service if it was held at Wonthella Oval.

“I don’t know whether I am going to go down or not,” he said.

“The RSL should have got in touch with all the veterans... there are a lot of younger fellas who went to Afghanistan and Vietnam and I’m sure they would be upset too.”

Mr McKenzie said the service should have been held around a public memorial, with the HMAS Sydney II Memorial an obvious alternative.

“You’ve got all these other places and events with lots of people and yet (Geraldton RSL) can’t have the dawn service down at Birdwood House around the memorial, which was there for the veterans who are no longer with us and the veterans who are left,” he said.

“People like to lay their wreaths around the memorial and I used to enjoy going up there on Anzac Day.

“If they have to move it from Birdwood House, the next place would be up on HMAS Sydney because that is a memorial place up on the hill.”

But Geraldton RSL president Barry Stinson said it would not be appropriate to host Anzac Day at the HMAS Sydney II Memorial.

“The HMAS Sydney Memorial site is a memorial to one event only and that is the sinking of the HMAS Sydney and the loss of 645 crew members,” he said.

“It’s not the war memorial in Geraldton, so it would not be appropriate to run Anzac Day services or Vietnam Veterans Day or Remembrance Day services at that site. That’s why every year we do a separate HMAS Sydney service on November 19.”

Mr Stinson said several RSL members were consulted before the decision was made to hold the dawn service at Wonthella Oval.

He said the RSL was this week meeting with stakeholders to discuss event details.

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