Coronavirus lockdowns might have curtailed 2020 Anzac Day public commemorative services, but Toowoomba Region Mayor Paul Antonio said the significance of April 25 would be recognised, albeit in different ways to previous years.

Mayor Antonio this week laid a wreath on behalf of the citizens of Toowoomba at the Mother’s Memorial in East Creek memorial gardens. (There are no public attendance events this year in line with state and federal government health guidelines.)

“It is important that we all observe the stay at home message to keep the community safe during the Coronavirus pandemic,” Mayor Antonio said.

“A global public health scare is about the only event that could prevent us from gathering for the annual Anzac Day remembrance services across the region.

“While Australians and New Zealanders can’t stand shoulder to shoulder in 2020 at dawn services or around war memorials, this in no way diminishes the respect we have for all past service personnel and current civilian and military ranks.

“I encourage residents to join the RSL’s planned Light up the Dawn commemorative activity by pausing at their property entrance tomorrow morning.

mayorwreath“The Toowoomba United RSL sub branch is live-streaming a veteran’s private Dawn Service from 5.45am tomorrow on facebook and community Anzac Day committees, such as Acland and Westbrook (Westbrook Hall committee), will have pre-recorded programs to view via facebook. Residents can log-in to join these events in spirit.

“A Lest We Forget lighting installation has been placed on the front of Toowoomba City Hall fronting Ruthven Street and a large wreath is hanging at the front of the RSL Soldiers’ Memorial Hall next door.

“People are reminded not to gather in numbers at these sites, but they will be visible to anyone who is passing. Visual reminders will be our potent symbols of remembrance in the isolation year.”

Mayor Antonio said the unusual solitude he experienced when laying the wreath at the Mother’s Memorial offered a reminder of the story behind the memorial’s origins.

“The Toowoomba violet on my lapel is a constant reminder of the emotional story behind the Garden City’s floral emblem, the sweet violet. To me, the story around the violet resonates just as strongly as recollections of sacrifice, bravery and mateship each Anzac Day,” he said.

“Toowoomba’s Mother’s Memorial was built on the mothers’ love for their sons and relatives who did not return from World War One.

“These bereft women and family members gathered small bundles of sweet violets to sell for threepence to raise funds to build the memorial. Around £1800 was raised and the memorial was unveiled by the Queensland Governor in January 1922. (firstly, at the intersection of Margaret and Ruthven Streets, before it was relocated to East Creek Memorial Park)

“The memorial serves as a timeless and poignant reminder of the far-reaching effects of war, even on the people left at home on the other side of the world.”

Mayor Antonio said the effects of the Coronavirus offered a small insight into the hardships endured and overcome by past generations.

“Adversity draws out our inner strength and a shared community resolve to support each other while honouring the deeds of our service personnel,” Mayor Antonio said.

“Families, especially mothers, lived through the dark days of war burdened by an unimaginable sense of isolation, fear and grief.

“Each year Anzac Day services honour the ill-fated Gallipoli landing and subsequent campaign in Turkey in World War I. The date has become a broader national memorial day.

“These services are important occasions for us to formally remember and reflect on the sacrifice of past generations of servicemen and women from this area.

“Apart from honouring their selfless deeds, we must remember there is a new generation of men and women who recently have been involved in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“While the ranks of veterans might thin each year, online Anzac Day services in 2020 will ensure we never forget the sacrifices of our forebears.”

Caption: Toowoomba Region Mayor Paul Antonio lays a wreath on behalf of the citizens of Toowoomba at the Mother’s Memorial in East Creek memorial gardens.


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