This weekend, ANZAC Day will not look like it has in previous years.
At the Shrine of Remembrance, there will be a Dawn Service to commemorate the sacrifice of all Australian servicemen and women, reflecting on the impact of war, conflict and peacekeeping operations in Australia's history. Wreaths will be laid, the Last Post will be played, a minute of silence in memory of the fallen will be observed.
It’s one of Australia’s most important national occasions, and this year all members of the service community and the public will stay at home.
All marches and midday services will be cancelled, making this year the first year in a century without an Anzac Day parade.
At the MCG, one lone bugler will walk into the empty grounds and play the Last Post to an empty stadium.
And it’s not just local events that will be cancelled. Earlier this month, the Federal Government has announced that all Australian-led international Anzac Day events, including the Dawn Service at Gallipoli, will also be cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
To mark the dawn service, parishes and RSLs around Australia have embraced the ‘Driveway Dawn Service’, urging all Australians to stand at the end of their driveways, balconies or living rooms to commemorate 25 April.
According to parish priest and former chaplain to the Air Force Fr John Healy, parishioners in Laverton will still mark the day. ‘They’re going to meet on their driveway and have a dawn service themselves. I’ve provided them with some information about that, like a scripture reading, a prayer, and when to play the Last Post. It will be a simple occasion that they can mark with their neighbours, while keeping their distance.’
‘A lot of parishioners have spoken about standing in their driveway at dawn, as we’ve been encouraged to do. I know of one or two courts in my parish – maybe ten to twelve houses – that are organising something like that amongst their neighbours,’ Fr John says.
Across Melbourne, Fr John expects parish communities will be similar, doing something to honour the Anzacs, even if it’s simple.
Part of the efficacy of the gesture stems from it emerging from ordinary Australians.
‘This isn’t driven by anyone in particular,’ Fr John says. ‘It’s just people’s response to the fact that we can’t gather for Anzac day as a community. We can’t have Mass, they can’t go to the Shrine or RSL. They see the significance of it, and realise they have to do something themselves.’
‘It’s highlighted the significance of the day amongst Australians when we can’t gather, because there’s no parade this year.’
‘It has come from an urge to say, this is who we are as Australians,’ says former Air Force chaplain Deacon Jim Curtain from the Archdiocese of Melbourne. ‘That comes from the people and that is real.’
Parish Priest Monsignor Stuart Hall from Malvern East was a Navy chaplain for 22 years in Canberra and is former Director-General of Navy Chaplaincy. ‘On Friday, I’ll be hanging the Australian flag and the Aboriginal flag on the front iron gate of the church and then lay a wreath on the door or on the foot of the door,’ he says.
‘I’ll play the Last Post in the foyer of the church so any passers-by will hear it.’
‘The RSL is encouraging people to stand in driveways while the Last Post plays at the war memorial. It was suggested a month or so ago and my parishioners will get on board,’ he says.
For Msgr Stuart, the importance is in the gesture of remembering itself. ‘It’s the sincerity and the endeavour to remember and recall the sacrifices of those who came before us.’
Over social media, RSL Victoria encourages Victorians to take to their driveways to observe a minute of silence. ‘As the Last Post is played during the ANZAC Day Dawn Service walk outside, stand in your yard, driveway, or on your balcony and observe a minute of silence in respect of our veterans. Make sure that you snap a quick picture and share it right here on our Facebook page using the hashtag #STANDTO.’
This call was echoed by the Australian Defence Force. ‘We encourage you to #StandAtDawn and watch the live telecast of the dawn service at the Australian War Memorial,’ the Department of Defence wrote on Twitter.
Australian musician James Morrison has been vocal calling on musicians around the country to play the Last Post at dawn. ‘At 6am on ANZAC Day musicians everywhere are being called on to take to their front yards to play the Last Post,’ the musician wrote on his Facebook page.
‘This started as a grassroots campaign for Australians to commemorate Anzac Day at dawn in their driveways. It’s gathering momentum across the country. We may not be able to stand together as we usually would, but we can still stand, united in spirit.’
Lest we forget.
In Victoria, Melbourne’s Dawn Service at the Shrine of Remembrance will commence at 6:10am and will finish at 6:30am.