Groups of up to 100 people will be able to gather for Remembrance Day services on the Central Coast, thanks to a one-off exemption from COVID-19 restrictions.
The one-off exemption to the Public Health Order increases the number of people allowed to gather at community war memorials from 20 to 100, as communities prepare to honour all service people who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend Australia, on November 11.
On the Coast, RSL Sub-Branches across the region are preparing to hold socially distant services, but according to some, such services still pose a logistics nightmare, even with the exemption in place.
Greg Mawson is the Central Coast District Council of RSL Sub-Branches President, and he said that many of the local sub-branches had confessed their bitter disappointment that the same issues that plagued ANZAC Day were now impacting Remembrance Day.
“This (crowd limits) is going to be very hard for the Sub-Branches to police.
“After missing out on ANZAC Day, we are expecting that people will be out in droves on the 11th, so we’re asking that residents please be mindful of the restrictions.
“We don’t want to turn anyone away, but we also can’t risk the community’s health or one of our branches being fined for breaking the rules.
“It’s a tricky situation all round and we ask that everyone be sensible,” Mawson said.
Adding to the Sub-Branches’ woes is the difficulty in organising alternative arrangements to Remembrance Day services, which always take place on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
The Entrance Long Jetty RSL Sub-Branch typically hosts the largest ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day services in the northern suburbs.
Sub-Branch President, Les Mackie, said that while this year’s service was going to be more low key, his committee had moved mountains to ensure that it was Covid-safe.
“We will be holding a 100-person seated service in a cordoned off area near The Entrance Cenotaph.
“Twenty seats have been allocated to committee members and other guests helping run the service, with the other 80 seats able to be reserved by members of the public who wish to attend.
“The service will be shorter than usual, but will still have a prologue, singing of the National Anthem, prayers, reading of The Ode and playing of The Last Post and Reveille,” Mackie explained.
According to Mackie, the Sub-Branch Committee had to submit a Covid-Plan to council, the health department and police, outlining their service plans, with St John Ambulance personnel on hand to keep a Covid register, as well as local police, who’ll be enforcing social distancing.
While the seated service is filled via a first in best dressed online register, Mackie said residents who miss out could still observe the service from afar, provided they stand well clear of the barricaded area.
With such comprehensive protections in place, Mackie said he was cautiously optimistic that the service would proceed without incident, but conceded that it was uncertain times for many.
“There are members in my own committee who won’t be attending because they feel it’s unsafe to do so, which is totally understandable.
“Everyone needs to do what’s best for them, but I encourage everyone to think about other ways that they can pay their respects than just attending a service,” he said.
Acting Minister for Veterans, Geoff Lee, said while disruption to larger commemorations like the service at The Entrance was unavoidable, the exemption would at least allow for smaller services to be held in all local communities across NSW.
“Australians have paused to reflect and pay tribute on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month since 1918, so this is welcome news for our veterans’ community,” Dr Lee said.
Those unwilling or unable to attend a service are encouraged to lay a wreath or flowers at their local Cenotaph or War Memorial throughout the day.
They can also visit these sites for a moment of quiet reflection and thanks.