Crowds return for Anzac Day service, but some diggers locked out by fence

Hundreds have once again flocked to Melbourne’s centre under sunny skies to mark Anzac Day commemoration events, however fencing erected to manage crowds caused upset after dozens were locked out during the dawn service.

After 2020, when Victorians were unable to commemorate Anzac Day together, veterans, serving members, their families and the public – for many of whom the dawn service is an annual tradition – were grateful to return under clear, starry skies early on Sunday morning.

Citizens are seen amongst Veterans paying their respects at the ANZAC Day Dawn Service, Shrine of Remembrance. Credit:Chris Hopkins

Before the service began, people huddled in silence in the early morning darkness around the Eternal Flame. Among those was Roslyn Devlin, who came in from Carlton proudly wearing her father’s WWII medals to the service.

“We try [to come every year],” she said. “Last year I was in my driveway with my torch.”

Rosyln Devlin pays her respects at the dawn service in Melbourne. Credit:Chris Hopkins

“It’s been good to be able to get the tickets, my son got them for me.”

While those who were able to get a ticket were grateful to have snagged a spot, there was disquiet on the edges of the Shrine, where large temporary fencing was erected around the site.

A total of 1400 members of the public were allowed to attend the dawn service this year and had to pre-register and get tickets online. In 2019, 25,000 people attended.

Despite the crowd limits, dozens gathered to watch the proceedings through the wire fence.

John Murphy, from Bundoora, stood at the fence line with his walker on the top of a steep, grassy hill. He said he was disappointed that the site was fenced off and said he didn’t believe the event should be ticketed.

“I was never going to have a ticket to come to this event. I’d sooner be on the outside without a ticket looking in … So I’m here. I’ve been coming for nearly 30 years,” he said.

Hundreds of people, including John Murphy, wishing to pay their respects were locked out of the Shrine and the ANZAC Day Dawn Service, Shrine of Remembrance.Credit:Chris Hopkins

“It’s good to be back… I didn’t attempt to come last year. I had my dawn service at the front gate.”

Another man standing near Mr Murphy said a “dumb government fence” wasn’t going to stop him from coming to the Shrine to attend the service.

Further down, Jay, who served with the Australian Defence Force for 10 years full-time and ten years part-time and completed tours in East Timor and Iraq, said he tried to get tickets about 10 days ago but wasn’t able to.

Hundreds of people, including John Murphy, wishing to pay their respects were locked out of the Shrine and the ANZAC Day Dawn Service, Shrine of Remembrance.Credit:Chris Hopkins

“We would normally come and gather around the obelisk each year,” he said. “Given it’s an outdoor event, I don’t know how they can fit 85,000 in the MCG and it be OK and only 1400 here, it’s quite ridiculous.”

His friend Alex, who also served in Iraq and East Timor, was able to get a ticket and the pair stood together, separated by a fence.

Kyal and Andrea Rode with Lily (10) and Michael (7) at the ANZAC Day Dawn Service, Shrine of Remembrance. Credit:Chris Hopkins

“We were just lucky my wife booked the tickets so we were able to come in,” said Mr Rode.

Ms Rode said they wanted their children to come to the service each year with them to learn what Anzac Day meant.

“It’s to teach them the respect and carry out traditions,” she said.

“And it’s also about learning, so they know what it’s all about. We’ve done many dawn services but getting them up nice and early, it’s a lot for them and to stand here and be nice and quiet and wonder why we are quiet.”

A capacity cap on the number of people who could march was increased from 5500 to 8000 this week following a backlash and confusion about changing arrangements for the event, which was initially cancelled in February.

Those who had not registered but still wanted to march were allowed to register via a QR code system on the day.

Bobby Harrison, who served in Vietnam, marched alongside thousands in Melbourne on Sunday. Credit:Chris Hopkins

Melbourne veteran Bobby Harrison, 76, was in his early 20s when he fought in Vietnam in 1967. Marching in the parade, Mr Harrison reflected on the lifelong friendships he had made during his service.

“You become family,” he said. “You made some terrific friendships that lasted right till today. I spoke to quite a few on the phone yesterday. Sadly they’re starting to feel their years and ill health is catching up with them.“

He said it was extremely important to continue the Anzac Day traditions and have veterans pass on their stories with younger generations.

“It’s nice to see [people back out on Anzac Day], and I think it’s very important,” he said.

“We don’t want to see the atrocities we had before and it should be appreciated what we have. It’s very easy to forget about that if you don’t have these sorts of things.”

Representatives from the Royal Australian Air Force were in the leading contingent of the march, just behind the official party, in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the formation of the RAAF. Current serving members of the defence force, veterans, allies and descendants participating in the march walked in groups allocated by their era of service.

At the conclusion of the march, a commemoration service took place which included an official wreath-laying and a recitation of the Ode of Remembrance and the Anzac Requiem.

The parade ended about 10.30am, and onlookers at the Shrine who had been peering in through the steel fence were able to enter the site and watch from the grass.

David Mynott and wife Judie, who both marched in the Anzac Day parade.Credit:Simone Fox Koob

David Mynott, 76, was standing with his wife Judie, 74, watching the service at the Shrine after both marched in the parade when a young girl came up and handed him a homemade paper poppy and asked to get a photograph.

“It was charming,” he said. Mr Mynott served in Vietnam in 1966-67, and wore his father’s WWII medals, while Ms Mynott wore her family’s WWI medals.

While they thought the fencing was unnecessary, they were pleased to see so many people out at the events.

“Don’t need the fence,” said Mr Mynott. “I know everyone says it but there are 85,000 people at the stadium there and this is fenced off.”

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