Numerous RSL sub-branches will cancel Anzac Day Services due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
The decision comes after RSL Victoria held an emergency meeting of the Anzac Day Commemorative Committee on 16 March to discuss whether commemorative services would go ahead.
Former Emerald RSL president Peter Maloney said they won’t be doing any services for the public but will still try to put up poppies in the lead-up to Anzac Day.
“It’s that time of year when it’s something special, particularly the Dawn Service. People have been going to the Dawn Service for years in Emerald,” he said.
“It’s very special and now it has been taken away from us which is very sad and very disappointing.
“We have to recognise the fact that we’re in a serious situation particularly with our veterans who are not getting any younger.
“They are more prone because of their age so we have to recognise that and respect that.”
Upwey-Belgrave RSL president David Eaton said the decision was “heartbreaking” but he understood why it was made.
He said the financial impact on the RSL will be significant.
“It’s going to be a massive hit for us. Anzac Day financially is our biggest day of the year,” he said.
“That’s going to be devastating but we just hope the local people will support us and if they are in the position to make a donation to welfare that they do that.”
Mount Evelyn RSL member Anthony McAleer also held concerns regarding the loss of donations as elderly RSL members would likely be unable to collect donations by setting up stalls outside shopping precincts.
“Those are important welfare funds going towards supporting ex-service people and their dependants … It’s a tricky thing,” he said.
“RSL’s are mostly made up of members in that older age bracket and at the moment they are the most vulnerable to the virus.”
Meanwhile, Monbulk RSL president Bill Ford raised a different perspective towards the decision.
“It’s extremely sad and disappointing however to put it in context you look at our WWI, WWII Vietnam and other vets. What they went through is 10 times worse than what’s happening in our society at the moment.
Mr Ford said Monbulk will also cancel its Anzac Day events and instead hold a short private service at 10am.
He encouraged the community to still get down to support RSLs through donations and said Monbulk will keep its gates open for as long as it can.
RSL Victoria said there will be a single dawn service at the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance, which the public will also not be able to attend. The event will be conducted with a small number of officials and guests, while being modified to minimise any risks.
The Anzac Day March through Melbourne’s CBD and midday service at the Shrine of Remembrance have been cancelled.
RSL Victoria State president Dr Robert Webster OAM said, “Anzac Day 2020 will not look like the Anzac Day that so many of us are used to participating in.
“Traditionally many of us have marked Anzac Day by attending a dawn service at our local cenotaph or the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance.
“But in 2020, on April 25, when you can’t go to a local dawn service, the RSL is asking that instead you tune in via radio, social media or television and take a moment to reflect on the service and sacrifice of our veterans and those who are still serving today,” Dr Webster said.
“The most important thing is that together we remember our pledge as a nation. Lest We Forget.”
To find out more about local RSLs and what can be done to help support Anzac Day, visit www.rslvic.com.au.