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How we build this: ANZAC Day

From Kingscliff to Corrimal, RSL NSW members share what it takes to build ANZAC Day services across the state.

At a glance:

  • From dawn services to school visits, many kinds of activities are organised on or around ANZAC Day.
  • For those in the RSL Auxiliary, ANZAC Day is one of the busiest days of the year when it comes to fundraising.
  • Sub-Branch members describe how bringing the community together is a massive yet rewarding undertaking.

The ANZAC legend was formed more than a century ago, and veterans, their families and the entire community still remember the legacy of those who came before with ANZAC Day services across the state. 

Five members tell us what it takes to build ANZAC Day services in their local areas.

Kingscliff: Dual dawn services

For Russell Maddalena, a member of the RSL NSW Young Veterans Committee based in Kingscliff, helping out on ANZAC Day is a continuation of service after 32 years in uniform.

“We run three separate commemoration services: two Dawn Services and a main service with a March,” he says.

“On the Cudgen plateau, there’s a collection of pine trees that were planted just after World War I, each with a name commemorating a soldier who was killed. The Dawn Service, commencing at 4:20am, has been run there since day dot.

“We also run a 6am service at the cenotaph at Rowan Robinson Park, named after a local boy who was killed in Afghanistan. He was part of the surf club. The main March through Kingscliff ends there at the park.

“The local bowls club, on the beachfront not far from the cenotaph, puts on a breakfast for veterans and their families.”

Bundeena: Badges, pins and poppies

ANZAC Day is one of the busiest days of the year for Pauline McIllhatton of the Bundeena RSL Auxiliary.

“We’re flat out getting everything organised,” she says. “We have a Saturday street stall selling our wares in the lead-up to ANZAC Day. We display crocheted and knitted poppies on trees in town, and are always selling badges and pins.

“After the dawn service, we organise breakfast at Cabramatta Bowling Club. If it doesn’t rain, we’ll get about 400 people. If it rains, we might get about 150.

“This year, I managed to obtain a flag pole and Indigenous flag to commemorate fallen Indigenous soldiers from across the shire. That flag will be flying at dawn on ANZAC Day.”

Bega: A worthwhile effort

Gary Berman of Bega says his sub-Branch’s usual ANZAC Day service has become more complicated this year.

“We’ve had to make drastic changes due to Safe Work Australia regulations,” he says. “We submitted our usual traffic plans to the council, but were told Safe Work had changed its legislation, and that we had to have much more detailed and specific traffic plans. We had to put on traffic controllers at our own cost.

“Traffic control for the march has cost in the vicinity of $4,000, and we’ve had to make our own arrangements through private providers.”

For the small town though, ANZAC Day is an important commemoration.

“When you’re in the big city on ANZAC Day, you see a lot of people standing around, waving flags,” Gary says. “But when you do the same in a small country town, and you go up to the cenotaph – the names of our forebears are still there. You’ve got generations of people linked to that name.

“The significance for the town is quite profound.”

Penrith: Re-engaging locals

As President of Penrith RSL sub-Branch, Brian Cartwright understands the importance of building an ANZAC Day that involves the whole community.

“We have our ANZAC school service every year, where we invite representatives from local primary and high schools. We invite our local, state and federal politicians to attend the event and lay a wreath. We invite the directors of education to lay a wreath as well,” he says.

“Given that this year is the first proper ANZAC service we’ve had in three years due to COVID, it’s even more important that we do the best Dawn Service we possibly can, to get the community to re-engage with the veteran community.

Corrimal: Liaising with the community

To Kane Hall, a member of Corrimal RSL sub-Branch, bringing the community together on ANZAC Day is a massive yet rewarding undertaking.

“ANZAC Day is for all Australians to commemorate the veterans we’ve lost and celebrate those who are still alive,” he says. “We also think about those who are deployed on operations now. Everyone knows somebody who’s served, even if they haven’t deployed.

“The sub-Branch deals with the council to get all approvals in place, arrange for roadblocks, and liaise with police and emergency services. All of that is to make sure the day can happen, and that starts months before the day.

“The sub-Branch has a very important place in the community, arranging these events so members of the community can commemorate in a safe manner.”


See how RSL NSW members, veterans and their families marked ANZAC Day in the Sydney CBD.

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