Salute to women out in front
AUSTRALIAN women have played a vital part in protecting our country during war for more than a century, but their role has often been underestimated.
In fact, women marching on Anzac Day are often questioned about why they wear their medals on the left. It’s assumed they’re wearing them for someone else.
That’s why I welcome groups of female veterans and military personnel marching together at the front of the Melbourne Anzac Day parade in the city on April 25.
The order for the 2018 march shows women will march in a group behind those with disabilities, the official party, Victoria Police veterans and New Zealand veterans.
In other cities around the country, women as a group will have an even more prominent role. In Sydney, they will be right out the front.
I respect the right of women to be recognised in this way as a one-off.
The move is an initiative from the “By the Left” group – a reference to the side of the chest veterans wear their medals on.
One of the organisers is former major Kellie Dadds, who told me it’s about “broadening the perception of what a veteran looks like”.
It comes as recent changes to the definition of veteran has cleared the way for more women than ever to join the march.
In the past, veterans were defined as only those who had done duty overseas. Those who were discharged also missed out.
However, very few women were sent overseas before 1983 and the discharge of many who were married or pregnant was forced.
Over the years, this has led to many women not marching on Anzac Day because they “didn’t feel worthy because they weren’t returned veterans”, Ms Dadds said.
It’s about time women were given their due recognition.
This is why I welcome such temporary tweaks to the order of marching.
We must ensure Anzac Day marches remain relevant while respecting tradition. It can be a hard balance to get right.
In other changes, in some marches the number of current servicemen and women will be boosted and descendants of veterans will be asked to march at the back. This is something I find a little sad. Although there’s been a push for this over the years, it’s growing stronger year by year.
In some places such as Canberra, children under 12 have been banned altogether. This is regrettable.
Anzac Day for me is about remembering the sacrifice of those long gone.
I go to the marches to commemorate the bravery, selflessness and courage of individual soldiers, who included both of my grandfathers, who fought in World War II.
While there needs to be a balance between current armed services personnel and the descendants of Diggers, families shouldn’t be pushed aside.
The sight of a young girl or boy proudly wearing their long-lost greatgrandfather’s or great-great-uncle’s war medals (on the right, of course) sends a poignant message.
The RSL has said the change is about returning the march to its roots, but it seems to be going in the other direction.
For many members of the public, Anzac Day is about the sacrifices made by past generations swept up in two hugely destructive world wars they were forced to take part in.
It’s about marking their sacrifice and being reminded of the futility of war.
While current military personnel should play a key role in any Anzac parade, those from past wars must never be forgotten or pushed to the side.
NSW RSL president James Brown said someone who had “done multiple tours on behalf of this country” should not be marching “behind someone in trackie daks with some medals they found the day before”.
These comments are highly offensive.
If the RSL is concerned about the dress code of family marchers, it should address that matter rather than disparage all family members who march.
While there is a need to ensure that tradition is respected, we must engage future generations.
WHILE CURRENT MILITARY PERSONNEL SHOULD PLAY A KEY ROLE IN ANY ANZAC PARADE, THOSE FROM PAST WARS MUST NEVER BE FORGOTTEN OR PUSHED TO THE SIDE
RESPECT: Servicemen and women in an Anzac Day march.