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Byron Shire
February 23, 2024

Anzac Day in Ballina

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Ballina Anzac march, 2023. Photo David Lowe.

A large crowd braved intermittent showers and squally winds to commemorate Anzac Day in Ballina yesterday.

Shortly before the march, an RAAF E-7A Wedgetail (modified large passenger jet) flew very low over Ballina, surprising some who were grappling with their umbrellas.

At the ceremony, MC Anna Dicker introduced Darin Preston, also from the Ballina RSL sub-branch, who said he was very happy to see such an excellent turnout for both Ballina services in 2023, commemorating the Anzac landings at Gallipoli in 1916.

Ballina RSL sub-branch VP Darin Preston in Ballina Anzac march, 2023. Photo David Lowe.

He reminded the audience that ‘since Federation, Australian communities and families have felt the loss of over 100,000 servicemen and women and over 500,000 injured, ill or incapacitated.

‘Today we gather together in commemoration of those brave men and women who served Australia in times of war and peace.

‘We especially remember those who gave their lives or healthy bodies and the toll that this has taken on the families who loved them, and the communities they left behind,’ said Mr Preston.

Speaking about the RSL, he said, ‘We strive to help serving and ex-service people and their families enjoy the full benefits and joys of living in the lovely communities of Ballina and surrounds. We also want to reach out to a new generation of veterans, to help them and their families fit back into our community after their service.’

The Headliners Chorus sang ‘Abide With Me’, before the Reverend Ron Law led the group in prayers.

Anna Dicker then introduced the guest speaker for the Ballina Anzac event, Captain Elizabeth Wells, a serving field artillery officer and only the second woman to occupy this role.

Guest speaker Captain Elizabeth Wells at Ballina Anzac ceremony, 2023. Photo David Lowe.

Meaning of Anzac

Captain Wells acknowledged the Bundjalung Nation, and the contribution that First Nations people have played in the Australian Defence Force, both in wartime and peace.

‘Today is about acknowledgement and commemoration of Australians who have served and died in military operations,’ she said. ‘Today is a gathering to honour those who stood and those who ultimately fell in the protection of Australia, her people and her values.’

Captain Wells then compared the geography of the Gallipoli landings to the cliff faces of Broken Head, and the beach battlefields to Lennox Head and South Ballina. As she explained, Gallipoli ‘was a strategic failure, but it did solidify our international reputation as an innovative, humble and incessant band of mates.’

Captain Wells quoted the German WW2 commander Rommel, who reportedly said, ‘If I had to take hell, I would use the Australians to take it and the New Zealanders to hold it.’

Piper Raleigh Kent plays at the Ballina Anzac ceremony. Photo David Lowe.

She went on: ‘When the Australian Defence Force deploys on operations, we are known to be the professionals who have a spirit of resourcefulness and the tenacity that was born in the fires of Gallipoli, with the Rats of Tobruk, in the jungles of Kokoda, and in the dust of Iruzgan,’ she said.

She emphasised that the Anzacs were not just the individuals immortalised in flickering old films, but all Australian and NZ members and veterans, past and present. ‘We are your community, and we are in your community.’

Captain Wells spoke about her pride in wearing the same unit colours as her grandfather-in-law, and mentioned the military’s important role in recent years at home helping people in the aftermath of natural disasters, as well as ongoing peacekeeping operations abroad.

‘Today is about acknowledgement and commemoration,’ she said. ‘We acknowledge those who did not come home to a ticker tape parade; those who felt abandoned and misunderstood by the Australia they left to defend…

Ballina Anzac march, 2023. Photo David Lowe.

‘Today we celebrate the defenders of Australia, and we celebrate the nurses who literally pulled up their sleeves and tended to the sick and dying when nurses from other countries simply wouldn’t.

‘We celebrate the First Nations soldiers who walked from town to town to find a recruiting officer who would smudge the paperwork so they could fight for a nation that did not see them as human beings.

‘We celebrate the men who hid their age, injuries and lack of education for the thrill and excitement that war promised them. But we do not celebrate war,’ said Captain Wells.

Wreaths

This moving speech was followed by a wreath laying ceremony, in which a wide cross-section of the community, young and old, honoured Ballina’s fallen. This was accompanied by some wonderful pipe music from Raleigh Kent, followed by the Ode, ending with the immortal words, lest we forget.

Bugler Brendan Flanagan at Ballina Anzac ceremony, 2023. Photo David Lowe.

Brendan Flanagan played ‘The Last Post’ on the bugle, followed by the traditional minute of silence, as the river lapped against the bank and the wind whipped up, with rain threatening.

The Headliners Chorus sang again, followed by Ballina Mayor Sharon Cadwallader reading the Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant, and the singing of the national anthems of New Zealand and Australia.

After another prayer from the Reverend Law, Darin Preston was wrapping things up by thanking the Australian Army Cadets unit from Lismore and the Naval Cadets from Ballina, before the rain returned with full force, and everyone ran for cover.

Photo gallery below:


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