Anzac Day 2020 in Port Stephens will be one like no other

HEARTFELT TRIBUTE: Corlette resident Sarah Lyon, 11, has been making lanterns for her neighbours to display at the end their driveways on Anzac Day. Picture: Rod Lyon

HEARTFELT TRIBUTE: Corlette resident Sarah Lyon, 11, has been making lanterns for her neighbours to display at the end their driveways on Anzac Day. Picture: Rod Lyon

When dawn breaks over Port Stephens on April 25 it will cast a light on a vastly different scene from what has come to be expected of Anzac Day commemorations.

For the first time in a century there will be no public dawn services, mid-morning marches or afternoon two-up with all official events cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But determined to see the Anzac Day tradition carried on, many Port residents are expected to hold collective yet socially distant dawn services in their homes to honour servicemen and women past and present.

"If you have a flag, fly it. If you have someone in your street who can play the trumpet, play The Last Post," Nelson Bay RSL Sub-Branch vice president Tom Lupton said.

"We're advocating for people to come out at 6am and stand on their driveway with a lantern, a light or a candle and face to the east where the sun rises.

"That's part of The Ode: At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them."

Light up the Dawn:

Mr Lupton said it was a "no brainer" to cancel Anzac Day services this year.

While RSL NSW made the decision, based on the government's COVID-19 health advice and regulations on gatherings, Mr Lupton said many veterans were in their 80s and 90s - the age group identified as vulnerable to the coronavirus.

"We must adhere to the virus regulations. We're very mindful of that. But we're also urging people don't give up on us. It's the thought that counts," he said.

While services and events have been cancelled this year there has been overwhelming support for a call to action, fueled through social media, urging all Australians to turn out and 'light up the dawn'.

LEST WE FORGET: Nelson Bay RSL Sub-Branch vice president Tom Lupton pictured emceeing last year's Anzac Day mid-morning service.

LEST WE FORGET: Nelson Bay RSL Sub-Branch vice president Tom Lupton pictured emceeing last year's Anzac Day mid-morning service.

RSL NSW has endorsed the gesture, with acting president Ray James encouraging the public to continue to show their support for Australia's servicemen, women and veterans while remaining in isolation.

"There's no doubt that Anzac Day 2020 will be very different to Anzac Days of previous years. While we will not be gathering at services or marches, there are still many ways to acknowledge Anzac Day and ensure Australian servicemen and women are appropriately remembered," he said.

Wanting to do something special for Anzac Day, young Corlette resident Sarah Lyon has been hard at work making lanterns for her neighbours to display on their driveways.

The 11 year old has spent the past few weeks collecting two litre milk bottles which she cuts, paints poppies or crosses with the words 'Lest We Forget' on the sides, fills with sand and a candle. Sarah has made 26 lanterns - two for each driveway in Kelp Street.

"We are not really allowed to go anywhere. This means a lot of important things have been cancelled. One very important thing is our Anzac Day Dawn service. We still want to remember everybody who served," Sarah said.

Raymond Terrace resident Margaret Burton has made lanterns (pictured) which she said she would be displaying at her home on Anzac Day.

Raymond Terrace resident Margaret Burton has made lanterns (pictured) which she said she would be displaying at her home on Anzac Day.

Rod Lyon said his daughter typically represents St Michael's Primary School at the Nelson Bay Anzac Day march.

Unable to march this year, Sarah still wanted to "remember everyone who served", which is how the lantern idea was born.

"These will be placed along our small but community-minded street at 5.30am on Anzac Day," Mr Lyon said.

Residents of Albatross Avenue in Salamander Bay will also answer the call to action. Led by Francis Reader, residents of the close-knit neighbourhood will stand at the end of their driveways at 6am.

Mr Reader will display a light-up kangaroo and Kiwi in his yard. He will play a recording of The Last Post, to be followed by a minute's silence.

In Nelson Bay, Tomaree Street resident Norm Littlefair said he would personally be playing The Last Post and Reveille in his driveway at 6am.

"I haven't done this for a while and not getting any younger (80) but I will do my best," he said. "I have let some of my neighbours know by letter drop so I don't surprise them too much, but hope I can execute the task reasonably well."

Residents of Medowie's Pacific Dunes Golf Estate will be observing Anzac Day with a dawn service.

Richard Ayre said residents of Augusta Place and Turnberry Lane whose backyards face the golf course's 18th fairway plan to gather in their yards at 6am for a special tribute.

Raymond Terrace RSL Sub-Branch president Vic Jones RAR laying a wraeth at last year's Anzac Day service.

Raymond Terrace RSL Sub-Branch president Vic Jones RAR laying a wraeth at last year's Anzac Day service.

"Following The Ode, The Last Post will be played with the yards containing Australian flags (at half mast) in position. After a minute's silence, The Rouse will be played with the flags being raised to full height and the tribute complete," Mr Ayre said.

"Traditionally I've played The Last Post on my trumpet but having seen it performed on YouTube on a violin at a number of RSL services in recent years I decided to do the same. I'm sure the 1000 watt sound system will suffice."

Many more Medowie residents have indicated that they will head to the end of their driveways at dawn on Saturday to mark Anzac Day, responding to a call to action through the Medowie Driveway Dawn Service 2020 Facebook page.

Raymond Terrace RSL Sub-Branch president Vic Jones RAR further encouraged Port residents to "remember the sacrifice of our veterans very differently" on Saturday by conducting their own memorial services at home.

"By holding our own moment of silence and reflection we can still honour the commitment that was made generations ago to those who sacrificed so much to preserve the freedoms and way of life we enjoy today," Mr Jones said.

"Even in the relative social isolation we are enduring at this time, it is still possible for us to join together in this symbolic act to forever remember them. Their courage and fortitude in the face of adversity should be an inspiration for us all during these challenging times in our own lives."

As a meaningful tribute, RSL NSW is encouraging residents to record a video of themselves reciting The Ode and posting it with a message of support for veterans to social media; to 'light up the dawn' at 6am on April 25 by turning out to the end of a driveway, balcony or even stand in the lounge room with a light and listen to a commemorative service; tune into a commemorative service such as the 5.30am Australian War Memorial service or 10am Anzac Memorial service in Sydney; reach out to a mate or veteran who might be alone; and donate to the Anzac Appeal.

Sarah Lyon, 11, with her Anzac Day lanterns. Picture: Supplied

Sarah Lyon, 11, with her Anzac Day lanterns. Picture: Supplied

Mr James said it was necessary this year to "change the way we do things, evolve and make the best of our situation".

"Now is the time for all of us to show our Anzac spirit. Any activity that respectfully shows commemoration and thanks is most welcome. This year, as we cannot come together in person, these activities alongside the many other community-generated initiatives are all ways we can come together in our time of remembrance," he said.

Anzac Day is traditionally one of the Port's biggest events of the year drawing thousands out to pay their respects.

According to RSL NSW, the last time Anzac Day services were cancelled was in 1919 because of the Spanish flu. This year's Anzac Day commemoration marks 75 years since the end of WWII.

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