Anzac Day in Port Melbourne 2021
The sun was shining as people gathered in Beach Street. The crosses had been laid out, as if by magic, but actually by Ken Jackson, son of the late veteran Geoff Jackson.
Beach St shoreward of the memorial was fenced off to enable registration via QR Code. No traffic – neither truck, car nor bicycle – was permitted to pass through. A raised platform for the speakers, slightly offset to the west of the memorial, was a new feature of the commemoration this year. An impressive sound system under cover guaranteed there would be no issues with sound.
In opening, MC Dale Allchin acknowledged the passing of Lyn Walsh, wife of Bunna Walsh, who had been a behind the scenes organiser of the event, and of Milton Alexandrakis, faithful attendant bugler to the service for many years, who had died in February in his 90s. ‘We mourn their passing, and cherish their memories’, he said.
Josh Burns, representative for the federal seat of Macnamara, took the cue for his speech from the issue of veteran suicide and the Royal Commission announced by the Federal Government on 19 April. He acknowledged the mental, emotional and physical toll that war causes on those who serve, as well as the impact on their families.
He reminded us of the shocking statistics – that more Australian veterans have taken their own life in the last 20 years – the span of our presence in Afghanistan – than have been killed in active duty. And that on average, one veteran takes their own life in Australia every two weeks. He went on to say that ‘No returned solider should be struggling so much – whether emotionally, mentally, physically or even financially – that they are forced to consider taking their own lives’. We must do better, much better, in supporting them.
It was hardly surprising that Martin Foley, member for Albert Park, and Minister for Health in the Andrews Government, should have located his reflections on the enduring legacy of Anzac on those who put themselves on the front line to bear the risk for us and to keep others safe. The Anzac legacy lies in ‘how we respond collectively to support our communities to intervene and protect them.’
Marcus Pearl, Deputy Mayor of the City of Port Phillip, paid tribute to the enduring strength of the Port Melbourne community over time. He recalled the special privilege of laying a wreath at dawn in the depths of lockdown in April 2020.
All three elected representatives acknowledged the ‘unique living memorial’ that is Port Melbourne’s piers.
Guest speaker Lt Col Sandeep Jadhave spoke of the less visible but long supply line that supports troops on the front line. He has dedicated himself to promoting education in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). ‘A future Monash might be in Year 8 or 9 right now’, he said. The technologies that will support future war and defence capability in a decade are being developed now.
President Sue Leong and Johnny May laid a wreath in Port’s red and blue colours.
Perce White, care taker of the Anzac tradition in Port for many years, attended the service – accompanied by Kevin Bracken.
The choir of Port Melbourne Primary School grows in assurance under the guidance of Maria Chadwick.
In the sad absence of Milton Alexandrakis, a recording was played. Whereas the recording was sure, it lacked his touch.
The commemoration concluded, guests were invited back to the Port Melbourne Bowling Club. On the splendid Autumn day, every cafe in Bay St was full to overflowing.
It is estimated that 1600 people attended. The arrangements were well taken care of by the City of Port Phillip.
Vale Milton Alexandrakis 19.4.1930 – 16.2.2021