The ANZAC Day march making its way down Bourke Street into Albert Park. Photo: Tim Warren.

The Cootamundra RSL Sub-Branch has held yet another respectful ANZAC Day commemoration, with two ceremonies in which local residents showed their support for the well-respected day on the Australian calendar.

2022 marks 107 years since Australian and New Zealand troops first landed on the shores of Gallipoli, however, the lives and sacrifices made by the soldiers still live on in the memory of all to this day, and it’s those sacrifices that allow us as Australians to live a life of freedom today.

The Cootamundra RSL Sub-Branch held their Dawn Service starting at 6 am, with a large contingent of the townspeople showing their respect for the day and taking a moment to reflect.

Following the completion of Dawn Service, the town got ready for the annual ANZAC Day parade, which has been affected by COVID in the last two years.

The parade was led by a police escort which entailed vintage cars, with the following march which included ex-servicemen and women, relatives of those who fought in war, emergency services as well as students and teachers from local schools.

Cootamundra High School participating in the ANZAC Day march on Parker Street. Photo: Tim Warren.

Residents lined the streets and then made their way to Albert Park before gathering around the park in their hundreds.

Once the march, led by parade marshall Mr Danny Whitehead, reached the ANZAC Day Service location of Albert Park the official ceremony began.

The morning service began with the catafalque party mounting the corners of the Cenotaph.

A prologue of the service was offered by the Cootamundra High School Captain, which was followed by hat laying of the Navy, Army and Airforce 256 Army Cadet Unit.

Wreath-laying followed, with significant town figures including Cootamundra RSL Sub-Branch President Ken You, Cootamundra-Gundagai Mayor Charlie Sheahan and Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke all laying wreaths, as well as wreaths from certain groups and schools in town.

The Recessional Hymn was then played, followed by the readings of the Prayer of Thanksgiving by the Sacred Heart School Captain, Prayer for the Queen by E A Southee Public School Captain, and Prayer of the Nation by the Cootamundra Public School Captain.

The Lead Kindly Light Hymn was then played, before the commemoration of the Fallen address by Combined Churches of Cootamundra President Darren Duncanson.

The Ode was then read out, before Bugler Sgt Matthew Creek from the Australian Army Band Kapooka played The Last Post.

The Abide with Me Him was then read, before both the New Zealand and Australian National Anthems were played.

A guard dismount from the catafalque party concluded official proceedings.

Mayor Charlie Sheahan spoke to The Times following the ANZAC Day Service about the exceptional ceremonies.

Cootamundra-Gundagai Mayor Charlie Sheahan laying a wreath at the ANZAC Day Service in Albert Park. Photo: Tim Warren.

“I thought it was terrific. A really good turnout at both the Dawn Service and Morning Service. Particularly with the school kids, it was great to see, given that it’s holidays, the participation was fantastic,” Sheahan said.

“At all levels, with wreath-laying from a lot of the organisations and clubs in town. The participation of the kids, cadets and guides and everyone else was really fantastic.”

Charlie explained the significance of ANZAC Day across Australia, but particularly in rural towns.

“Anzac Day is a day that a lot of people have a lot of commonalities with. They’ve got forebears and previous generations that have served in the Army and military. Most people have a story to tell,” he said.

“Given the times that we live in with the troubles in Ukraine also the more recent service that the Australian troops have done in Afghanistan, East Timor and Iran make it all more to the forefront of it.

“Originally, the commitment was felt probably mostly in rural towns, because of those small communities that had settled at that time 100-odd years ago.

“The losses were felt for a generation after that, with the physical workforce of the times. But it was that cultural building for Australia, which we still hold mateship dear today. When the chips are down, we still rise above that. It’s through that mateship and mutual support of each other was first really established in Gallipoli.

COVID forced ANZAC Day services in recent years to be reduced in size, but Mayor Sheahan was proud of this year’s large turnout.

“I think people are enjoying the opportunity to get out and mix and come together. We’ve probably taken our liberties a little bit for granted and the COVID experience over the last couple of years has made us more aware of the joys and pleasures that we have as a community and appreciating the opportunity.

“It was also pleasing to see Ian Mason and his military presence coming across from Wagga, as well as Steph Cooke.”

More to come.

Tim Warren