Anzac Day in Port Melbourne 2019

With MC Dale Allchin’s firm hand on proceedings, the event started promptly at 9.45 am. He reminded the ever growing crowd that Anzac Day is not a celebration, it’s a commemoration. Even though the crowd filled the width of Beach St and the length from Bay St to Nott St, a podium and a new sound system meant that all speakers could be seen and heard.

Dale Allchin, MC

Prayers for peace and good governance in a troubled world were offered. Councillor Cr Bernadene Voss observed that Port Melbourne had more visible reminders of the First World War than most places with the piers being the point of departure and return. She brought to light the story of the Adams family of Princes St. Three sons of the Adams family enlisted: William, Leslie and Claude. Candle maker Leslie was killed in action and is commemorated at Villers Brettoneaux. She described the context to which Port Melbourne soldiers returned – a community ravaged by the effects of the Spanish flu. Some soldiers were held in quarantine at the Pier, unable to disembark.

Guest speaker and Vietnam veteran Mr Barry Minster OAM spoke on the theme ‘It’s not easy being an Anzac’. The Boer War was the first conflict in which Australians and New Zealanders fought side by side. That conflict was not universally supported in Australia, and returning soldiers were booed on their return home. In the First World War, he said, when 9.5% of the population were in the armed services, most people would have known someone, or been connected to someone, serving. Today with only .2% of the Australian population, or 52,000 people, in the armed services it is much less likely for people to know anyone serving. We are less connected to conflicts than before.

The Hon Martin Foley invited guests ‘to pause in our busy lives to reflect on the complex and evolving legacy of Anzac in our troubled world’. He acknowledged the community organisers and the support offered by the City of Port Phillip. He mourned the loss of opportunity and potential that all those casualties represented. He acknowledged the women who had greeted returning hospital ships, and Allan Whittaker, a first day Gallipoli veteran, who was shot by police at nearby Princes Pier during the bitter waterfront strike of 1928. He reminded us that there are many, many legacies – to families, communities and society – rather than one single legacy of Anzac.

John May with his grandson Jack laid a wreath on behalf of the Society. Perce White, who kept the flame of Anzac commemoration alight when it was a mere flicker, laid a floral tribute to his father, Alf Maguire White.

Jack and John May prepare to lay the blue and red wreath

Signs of the imminent federal election were present with candidates for the seat of Macnamara – Josh Burns (Labor) and Kate Ashmor (Liberal) laying wreaths. Retiring representative Michael Danby extended his apologies as he was representing the Federal Government at Villers Brettoneux.

The traditions of Anzac Day in Port Melbourne are being handed on through families. Dale Allchin follows in his father Stanley’s footsteps and this year Ken Jackson attended to the the flag like his father Geoff before him. Students from Port Melbourne Primary School sang out strongly under the guidance of their music teacher Maria Chadwick.

The invisible hand of the City of Port Phillip’s organisation underpinned the well organised event. Staff kept traffic at bay so that a rare silence could be experienced after the Ode was recited.

At the conclusion, a warm invitation was extended to continue that other tradition for light, or heavy, refreshments at the Port Melbourne Bowling Club.

Afterwards not a complaint could be heard. ‘Coudn’t have had a better day for it’ said many while ‘I think this is the biggest crowd so far’ said others.

image Bernadene Voss

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