Private Anzac services could replace crowds

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Adam PoulsenGeraldton Guardian
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A large crowd at last year’s Anzac Day dawn service in Geraldton.
Camera IconA large crowd at last year’s Anzac Day dawn service in Geraldton. Credit: Anita Kirkbright/The Geraldton Guardian

UPDATE 17 March: The Nukara Music Festival has been postponed until March 2021. Co-organiser James Thompson said the tickets would remain valid for the 2021 festival, but organisers were already working closely with Ticketbooth to facilitate refunds for those who wanted them.

The WA Centre for Rural Health today cancelled it’s Neighbour Day event, which was to run at Mitchell Street Community Centre on March 29, and the Barndi Nyarlu Good Woman display of creative works which was to open at Mullewa Arts Centre next month.

The State Basketball League has postponed the start of the season until the end of May due to COVID-19, which will affect the Geraldton Buccaneers.

UPDATE 16 March: WoW Festival will not go ahead in April. Nukara Music Festival organisers say this weekend’s festival will go ahead with tickets sales already halted below 500. Fists of Fury II charity boxing match has been postponed until later in the year.

UPDATE 14 March: Tonight’s State Basketball League game between the Geraldton Buccaneers and Goldfields Giants at Activewest Stadium has been postponed until further notice. The cancellation comes after Basketball Australia released a statement strongly recommending competitions around Australia do not proceed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Geraldton’s Anzac Day services and WoW Festival could be cancelled, but it’s full steam ahead for tomorrow’s Harmony Festival.

Geraldton Returned and Services League president Barry Stinson says a private Anzac Day service could still go ahead next month, despite the Federal Government’s ban on public gatherings of 500 or more people.

The ban will not extend to schools, universities or public transport. Mr Morrison also said all non-essential travel outside of Australia should be limited.

“If 500 is the limit and we can’t do that, we could probably have a restricted service here without any public coming along to it and we wouldn’t come into the numbers game,” Mr Stinson said.

“The latest I’ve heard from RSLWA is that next week they’re probably having video conferences with all the other State RSL clubs and the national RSL in Canberra.

“Following that, they would make their collective decision known.”

Mr Stinson’s comments came after Prime Minister Scott Morrison today announced mass public gatherings of 500 or more people will be banned as of Monday.

Although public Anzac Day services are now looking unlikely to go ahead, Mr Stinson would not speculate further.

But he admitted the situation was looking grim.

“I’d say that they (RSL sub-branches) would have to cow down to the Federal Government if that’s what they’re saying,” Mr Stinson said.

“There’d be a lot of people that would be extremely disappointed and there might even be people saying ‘well, we’re going to do it ourselves anyway’.”

Earlier today RSLWA sent an email to all WA sub-branches, in which president Peter Aspinall said the State branch must consider its “duty of care to members, all veterans and their families, and the general public”.

“The risk is that large public gatherings are ideal for the transmission of this virus with Anzac Day involving many older veterans who are most vulnerable,” Mr Aspinall said.

“The likes of the Australian Medical Association observe that to continue undertake Anzac Day commemorations that draw significant numbers is a significant health risk.

“Over coming days and into next week, we will be liaising closely with RSL Australia and other State RSL leaders so that a unified decision can be made.

“Once such a decision is made, Sub-Branch liaison will be critical to plan a way forward.”

Mr Aspinall said in the meantime RSLWA was taking advice from “relevant authorities including the most senior medical advisors to the Federal Government and WA Government”.

In the wake of the Prime Minister’s announcement, the City of Greater Geraldton this afternoon announced it was “reviewing all of its operations and events, including WoW Fest”, which is scheduled to run at Easter.

A spokeswoman said an announcement about WoW Fest would be made next week.

“We understand and appreciate the frustration and inconvenience this causes, but community safety is our top priority,” she said.

“At this point in time, all City facilities will remain open and operating as usual.”

Meanwhile, the Midwest Multicultural Association has confirmed the annual Harmony Festival in Geraldton will run as planned tomorrow.

Ticket sales for Nukara music festival on March 21 and 22 have ceased, to keep numbers below 500.

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