Anzac Day in Port Melbourne 2022
On a mild, still morning, crowds gathered in Beach Street to find the scene set – the white crosses neatly laid row upon row and Beach Street closed to traffic.
MC Dale Allchin acknowledged the passing of Bunna Walsh in March and the role that he and fellow citizens, including Perce White, had played in keeping the Anzac commemoration going when the Port Melbourne RSL closed. Perce, supported by Russell Griffiths, was in the front row.
With the flags of visiting HMAS Hobart III just visible above Station Pier, Josh Burns, MHR for Macnamara, spoke to the uneasiness beneath the calm day – the war in Ukraine – a country with which many people in Port Phillip have close family and cultural associations. He spoke of the bipartisan support in the Australian parliament for Ukraine. He acknowledged that this Anzac Day fell during the Federal election campaign, and that we should be ‘grateful for living in a country where we can choose our own government without the threat of violence’.
Martin Foley, the member for Albert Park, listed the many Port Melbourne sites of remembrance associated with World War 1 – the War Memorial itself, the piers, the Rotunda, the Drill Hall, Whittaker House on Princes Pier as and the recent addition of the Memorial Garden at North Port. He described the commemoration as ‘a particularly Port Melbourne, and particularly community’ event. While conflict and war and terrible suffering show no signs of diminishing, the importance of commemorating Anzac Day remains as important as ever. ‘Port Melbourne remembers in its own commemorative way and the way that it remembers is democratic and participatory,’ he said. For him, the Anzac spirit is about how we care for and support one another in adversity.
The Mayor of the City of Port Phillip, Cr Marcus Pearl, put aside his prepared notes and spoke directly with those assembled. As well as the built memorials, he referred to the hundreds of stories of service, struggle and sacrifice that lie in the streets of Port Melbourne. He upheld the City of Port Phillip’s custodianship role for the service. He acknowledged the service to the community amongst those present: service clubs, members of the armed forces, police, ambulance and firefighters. He also acknowledged all the people who had gathered which give this service such meaning.
While we all have different connections, different reasons and different stories that bring us together for the Anzac Service, distinguished guest speaker Colonel Catherine Carrigan appealed to the crowd to ‘do more than just honour those In times of crisis’ by protecting the more vulnerable. She urged people to draw on the qualities of ‘endurance, courage, ingenuity, good humour and devotion to duty to each other, our communities and to Australia’.
A strong element that ran through this year’s commemoration was the theme of service. Service organisations and sporting clubs – the Port Melbourne Life Saving Club, the Port Melbourne Colts and the Scouts – were present in uniform.
The wreaths were laid. President Sue Leong and Johnny May laid the Society’s blue and red wreath, with a band across it with the words ‘Lest We Forget’.
The Port Melbourne Primary School choir under the direction of Maria Chadwick led the singing of the national anthem. People were warmly invited to the Port Melbourne Bowling Club for refreshments. It was time for catching up with friends, and to celebrate being able to do that in person after the lockdowns of previous years. The cafes in Bay St overflowed.