Moving ceremonies in Bourke and Brewarrina


Margaret McKay and Victor Bartley at breakfast after the ANZAC dawn service. PHOTO TWH

In ceremonies in cities and towns across the nation, communities came together on Monday to commemorate Anzac Day.

In Bourke and Brewarrina, some of the largest crowds seen in several years attended services to honour the men and women who served their country in times of war and peace.

President of the Bourke RSL, Victor Bartley, said he was impressed to see so many tourists take time out to join the local community on Anzac Day.

“Our services were very solemn and respectful and the feedback I had from people attending was that it was one of the most moving commemorations they had attended,” Mr Bartley said.

“I was surprised to see more than 200 people attend the dawn service, many of whom I didn’t recognise, which made me realise these were many visitors who took time to join us.

“Those who addressed the crowd spoke from the heart, including our guest speaker – the Mayor of Liverpool Plains Shire Council, Doug Hawkins.

“I was impressed that he acknowledged all veterans, and that he made special mention of indigenous people who served their country.

“We had Sheila Lowe, one of the last war widows in town and Florrie Wicks and for those ladies to attend speaks volumes about the importance of Anzac Day.

“It was also interesting that the mental health of veterans is recognised now.

“After World War 2 and the Korean War it was called shell shock.

“Post-traumatic stress wasn’t recognised in those days but after the Vietnam war it has become much more of an issue.

“A lot of my friends had these issues, but we didn’t get help from the government.

“I can look back and see that I was fortunate that I had good people and family around me, and I am now going stronger than I was 30 years ago.

“I used to be an alcoholic and medicate myself that way, but now I have the help I didn’t get back then.

“It is now 51 years since I was in Vietnam and that’s half a lifetime ago.

“We are more accepting of those issues and what happened to the soldiers in Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

“There is also more recognition for the Indigenous people who served our country from the Boer War right through to today.

“The wider community is learning that it was not just non-Aboriginal people who went to war but Indigenous people too,” he said.

There was a surprise for Mr Bartley at this years’ service – the attendance of his sister’s mother-in-law, Margaret McKay of Bathurst, who at 95 had never attended an Anzac Day service.

“Margaret is 95 and she wanted to attend her first with me conducting the ceremony as Bourke RSL President,” he said.

“Even though I fought in a war a lot of people said we shouldn’t be in, I am now in position to ensure the memories of those who served are on the Cenotaph in Bourke.

“I can’t speak highly enough of those who served their country to defend our freedoms,” he said.


Big gathering at Brewarrina

Steve Corey lays a wreath at Brewarrina. PHOTO TWH

Brewarrina also saw one of its largest gatherings for the dawn service and Brewarrina Mayor Vivian Slack-Smith said it showed Anzac Day was still one of our most significant national ceremonies.

“It was very moving to be at the dawn service,” she said.

“We had at least 50 people in attendance which was very pleasing, with many visitors taking a moment to commemorate the occasion,” Councillor Slack-Smith said.

“I would like to thank Belinda Colless and her husband for the work they did in putting together our commemorations.

“Some of the readings made mention of the mental health of veterans and the service of Indigenous people from our area.

“We still have people serving from all over Australia and it has never been more important than now, with the state of world affairs, that we recognise that service.

“Sadly, we will always have war somewhere,” Councillor Slack-Smith said.

Acting General Manager of Brewarrina Shire Council, David Kirby, read a very moving poem ‘The ANZAC on the Wall’.

“When I first read the poem a tear came to the corner of my eye,” Mr Kirby said after the ceremony.