RSL frets over low registrations for Melbourne ANZAC march
Victoria's RSL says just a fraction of the veterans expected to attend the Anzac Day march in Melbourne are registered for the event.
COVID-19 restrictions mean that veterans have to register to attend, but although up to 8000 veterans are expected to march, only 1400 have registered so far.
"It's a little bit surprising," RSL Victoria chief executive Jamie Twidale told AAP.
But he said the RSL has changed the rules for the April 25 march so that veterans can register when they arrive on the day.
"We'd hate to turn people away," he said.
Veterans will march with one of five groups, and it's hoped they will be able to make contact with others they served with, so that they can march together.
Mr Twidale said with the cancellation of Anzac marches in 2020, veterans missed out on catching up with people they served with:
"That was a big drain on their wellbeing, especially during a pandemic."
He noted that veterans may not wish to go out into large crowds due to the pandemic, and may have decided to commemorate the day locally.
Anzac Day marches were cancelled last year, forcing Australians to stand in their driveways and light a candle at dawn instead.
Acting Premier James Merlino says World War II and Korean War veterans are vulnerable to COVID-19, with the average age of Vietnam War veterans is 70, telling reporters on Wednesday:
"We want this event to go ahead.
“We want as large a crowd as we can."
A cap on numbers for the state's dawn service at the Shrine of Remembrance will remain at 1400 people.
Mr Twidale said:
“we’re hoping that by having a larger capacity, even though it might not be needed, it might attract some of those people sitting on the fence (whether to attend or not)."
75,000 people will be able to attend the annual AFL match between Collingwood and Essendon at the Melbourne Cricket Ground just a few hours after the march.
FlowNews24 spoke regularly with shadow minister for veterans, Tim Bull MP, about the Andrews government's consistent delay in determining what the ANZAC Day marching arrangements would be: