ANZAC Day comes early for Woden students

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CHILDREN from 18 southside primary schools filed into Eddison Park this morning for the Woden Valley RSL’s 22nd annual ANZAC and Peace Ceremony, which celebrated the Centenary of the Australian Red Cross.

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Photo by Gary Schafer
The young students arrived at the grassy amphitheatre that overlooks the park’s memorial obelisk to the sound of the ACT Schools Concert Band, as members of the ceremonial Federation Guard stood silently at attention, kitted out in the World War 1 Army and Navy uniforms.

A historical actor was also dressed as a member of the famous Australian Light Horse regiment, including the horse.

“It’s not part of ANZAC Day, it’s just a reminder for the kids so they can know what happened, know the history,” said Woden Valley RSL board member Bob Cremer. “Some people say ANZAC Day is promoting war. This is just a ceremony to celebrate those who went there and fought, but it’s about peace.”

The children listened patiently to Education and Training director-general Diane Joseph welcome the special guests, who included the chair of the Red Cross Centenary Committee, Dr Geoff Skillin, the New Zealand High Commissioner Chris Seed, who is the Woden Valley RSL Sub-Branch’s patron, and Pam Yonge, the last surviving member of the Eddison family, which lost three sons (Pam’s brothers) in World War Two.

Members of the No. 224 Army Cadets unit with a restored 1945  Jeep.
Members of the No. 224 Army Cadet unit with a restored 1945 Jeep. Photo by Stephen Easton
Then came the ceremonial flag-bearers and catafalque party from the No. 224 Army Cadet Unit, who marched in to solemnly stand guard around the memorial obelisk before the national anthem and a non-denominational prayer from military chaplain Roger ‘Mick’ O’Donnell, but the real highlight for the kids was the presentation of the ANZAC Essay Prize.

This year the students were asked to write about the role of the Red Cross in World War Two and the prize went to Ethan Theodorakis from Sacred Heart in Pearce. He won a medallion, $250 towards his education next year and a book on the history of the Red Cross for his school.

Sacred Heart Primary School student Ethan Theodorakis reads his ANZAC Prize winning essay.
Sacred Heart Primary School student Ethan Theodorakis reads his ANZAC Prize winning essay. Photo by Stephen Easton
“Its fundamental principles are humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality,” said Ethan, reading out his winning essay. “In short, they mean that the Red Cross will help wherever there is a need.”

Second prize went to Christopher Service from St Peter and Paul in Garran and third place went to Annie Grove from the same school. Both received a medallion and $125 towards next year’s education costs.

Canberra RSL sub-branches first started holding the combined ceremonies about 20 years ago, as it became increasingly difficult to fulfill all the requests they received from schools to provide speakers for ANZAC Day ceremonies.

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