NEXT year’s Anzac Day dawn service will return to its ‘spiritual home’, if Goulburn RSL Sub Branch president Gordon Wade has his way.
“Come hell or high water we’ll be going back to Rocky Hill in 2015,” he told the Post yesterday.
“That’s my commitment to Goulburn.” He said only a lack of Council approval would stop the shift from Belmore Park, where it has been held for the past six years. It was moved due to accessibility and the difficulty of accommodating the community near the memorial’s restricted space.
Next year marks the 100th anniversary of Anzac and planning for local commemorations is already underway.
In addition, a $400,000 upgrade is due for completion in coming weeks. Local company Denrith Pty Ltd has been doing the work, which involves lowering the forecourt to seat about 150 people, new stairs, lighting and electrical supply to the tower, and landscaping.
Mr Wade said he was very impressed with the work.
“It will offer us an enlarged area where I think we can hold 1000 people without them having to clamber onto rocks,” he said.
But the logistics of transporting people to Rocky Hill still has to be worked out. Mr Wade said he had spoken to Mayor Geoff Kettle regularly about the 2015 service. He has asked for Council’s help with a traffic plan.
The RSL bussed people to the site for two years running but Mr Wade said this was not successful, as some arrived after the commemoration.
“All of the logistical questions need to be sorted by at least November to get it organised,” he said.
Formally, the Sub Branch has not decided on Rocky Hill for the dawn service in 2015. But Mr Wade said this was his personal preference and one he’s recommending to the organisation.
Not everyone agrees. Rocky Hill may be the sentimental home but Belmore Park is favoured by many for its accessibility, particularly for ageing veterans and community members.
Sub Branch secretary Rod MacLean argued that Council should organise the logistics, rather than the RSL, if the service went back to the hill.
“We think the best way would be for Council to organise it, form a local committee of Sub Branch members and other interested parties and for Council to control traffic and transport.
“The Sub Branch has done it before and it didn’t work.”
Mr MacLean said the Memorial’s upgrade did not resolve problems; if a large crowd descended on Rocky Hill “it would still be bedlam.”
He believed Belmore Park was the ideal place despite not having Rocky Hill’s atmosphere.
The upgrade is partly designed to address space issues on the hill but funds are currently unavailable for car park improvements. This work is planned for a later stage.
Mayor Geoff Kettle said all his discussions to date with Sub Branch president, Gordon Wade had been about hosting the dawn service back on the hill in 2015.
“But we recognise there are still a lot of logistics to work out,” he said.
“…It would be lovely to have it back up there because there’s nowhere else in Australia that has an atmosphere like Rocky Hill.”
The mayor said the upgrade needed to be done regardless of the anniversary to make it safe and improve ambience as one of Goulburn’s main tourist attractions.
Council’s engineering services director Terry Cooper told the Post that Anzac Day was essentially a function of the Sub Branch and Council provided assistance.
Work on the Rocky Hill upgrade had been delayed two weeks due to rain. In the past few days, workers poured the last concrete batch for the forecourt and started on a new footpath.
The $392, 690 project has blown out by $25,000 due to extra underpinning required and employment of an Aboriginal elder during excavation. Mr Cooper said the latter was a requirement given Rocky Hill’s importance to the indigenous community. The person stayed on site for four to five days.
The work is due for completion by the end of next week.
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