War memorial dawn service shifted inside for Anzac Day

An empty Australian War Memorial just days before Anzac Day. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
An empty Australian War Memorial just days before Anzac Day. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Anzac Day will look very different at the Australian War Memorial this year, with a pared-back service to take place with a small amount of attendees at dawn, and no march of veterans in the morning.

Instead of the usual dawn service on the steps of the memorial facing out onto Anzac Parade in front of tens of thousands of people, if someone was to drive past at 5.30am on Saturday morning, there would be no external sign of the solemn ceremony inside.

Taking place in the commemorative area and hall of memory, the ABC's broadcast will begin at 5am, ahead of the official ceremony beginning at half past.

Designed to coordinate with the #LightUpTheDawn social media campaign, the sounding of the Last Post and the minute's silence will take place when Australians have been encouraged to stand to attention at their driveways and front doors, a way of paying respects together, but also while obeying social distancing rules.

Crowds at the 2019 Dawn Service at the Australian War Memorial. Picture: Karleen Minney.

Crowds at the 2019 Dawn Service at the Australian War Memorial. Picture: Karleen Minney.

Australians will also be able to stream the service through mobile devices and tablets.

Assistant director and head of public programs Anne Bennie said the Memorial wanted to find a way for people to acknowledge the day safely at home.

The format of the event has been approved by the Chief Medical Officer and ACT Chief Health Officer, with the smallest number of people necessary for the event to be there.

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Australians mark Anzac Day in many ways, whether it be at a football match or two-up at a local RSL, and Ms Bennie said the memorial hoped to offer something to everyone.

"Ways to honour veterans, and to also give people who engage in very different ways the opportunity to come together," she said.

Anzac Day services at the Memorial usually involve huge logistical efforts. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Anzac Day services at the Memorial usually involve huge logistical efforts. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Ms Bennie said community groups who would usually lay weaths at their local service were encouraged to instead send wreaths to the Memorial, where they will be laid beside the pool of reflection and be part of the ABC broadcast.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will be in attendance, as will Labor leader Anthony Albanese. Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester won't be in Canberra, but marking the day at his home in Gippsland in the same way he hopes many Australians will.

"I'll be spending Anzac Day at home, watching the broadcast of the service from the Australian War Memorial and spending time with my family," Mr Chester said.

"I will also support the RSL call to 'light up the dawn' and think about the resilience and determination of previous generations who overcame enormous hardship."

"At its heart, Anzac Day is about personally reflecting on the service and sacrifice of Australian service men and women. I will commemorate Anzac Day at home with my own gunfire breakfast and make a few phone calls to some mates who have served our nation."