Australia, Pacific nations hold shortened Anzac ceremonies

Today’s official Anzac day ceremonies may be cancelled across Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, but private and online commemorations will continue across the region in spite of coronavirus restrictions. 

In Apia today a small group will stand in a ceremony dedicated to the memory of the nation’s war veterans and those who sacrificed their lives in war.

Similarly shortened remembrance ceremonies will be taking place in driveways and living rooms across Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.

In Australia a dawn service will be held for a mostly online audience, due to coronavirus-related restrictions.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (A.B.C.) will simulcast an Anzac day ceremony from the Australian War Memorial in Canberra from 8am Samoan time with an official start time of 8.30am. 

The event is to be streamed online in what the Australian Government says is an opportunity for people to pay their respects quietly and from home. 

The Director of the Australian War Memorial, Matt Anderson, said that the social gathering restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic made this year’s ceremony all the more important. 

“Anzac Day is traditionally about acknowledging the resilience and fortitude demonstrated by the Anzacs at Gallipoli and the subsequent legacy that was born. Across the community, people are drawing upon their own resources to deal with this global health crisis,” Mr Anderson said. 

“It is vital that we have the opportunity to take time to pause and reflect on Anzac Day, if not as some brief respite from the overwhelming nature of the pandemic, but because it’s what we do. 

“Anzac Day happens every year and it will happen in 2020, albeit in different circumstances. We are resolute in our commitment to ensuring Australians can honour the Australian servicemen and servicewomen who have served in the past, and recognise those who are currently serving.”

Pasifika returned soldiers have told the A.B.C. that they will be taking the opportunity to mark the day in their own ways online. 

Emma Kamupala is the President of the Niue Community Council of Victoria said her community will use Facebook to commemorate the day.

"We're going to compile all the pictures into a slideshow... pre record a speech from myself... and also a short devotion from our minister," she said.

"Because this [was] their first time away from the island they were exposed to sickness... some died in New Zealand [and] some went to Gallipoli.”

Mr Anderson added that it is critical that Australia’s official memorial’s Anzac Day commemorative service includes a minimum number of people and adheres to government advice on gatherings of large groups and social distancing. 

The Chief Medical Officer for the Australian Government, Professor Brendan Murphy has given formal approval for an exemption of social distancing restrictions for the commemorative service. 

“It is heartbreaking that the traditional Dawn Service, National Ceremony and veterans’ march will not take place this year. We have heard from people who have attended or participated in Anzac Day commemorations at the Memorial for many years, and who are understandably disappointed to be unable to do so this year,” Mr Anderson said.

This year’s ceremony in Samoa has been called off due to social distancing restrictions.

Typically, a parade is held on Beach Road, culminating in a wreath laying ceremony at the iconic Clock Tower to commemorate ANZAC Day on the 25th of April.

A small number of the Samoa Returned Services Association were planning to gather and lay a wreath at 6am this morning, in a ceremony designed to keep in line with social distancing laws, Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio, told the Samoa Observer earlier this week. 

Some 49 soldiers of Samoan descent, who had joined either New Zealand or Australian forces in both world wars, are remembered in the local ceremony. 

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