Small town plans major Anzac Day commemoration

Anzac Day 2021 will be a particularly significant event for locals in the small coastal township of Robe. In April 2020, the trailblazing veteran respite program Robe 2 Recovery (R2R) had plans to present a two-day Anzac Day event in the veteran-friendly town, culminating in the Mid South East Football League and Netball Association “match of the round”.

After the traditional March and Dawn Service at the town’s War Memorial, feathers were set to fly between closest neighbours and fierce rivals the Roosters and the Eagles. In front of a huge crowd – including special guests and VIPs – bespoke hand-made medals named after two of the region’s veterans were to be presented; the magnificent Naracoorte Light Horse Troop would lap the town’s beloved footy oval pre-game and the match football spectacularly hand delivered from the sky by SA’s Mach 5 Wingsuit Skydiving Team.

Event coordinator Lonny Peel said thousands were expected flock to Robe for R2R’s Anzac Day Event, in a show of solidarity and community support for the town’s veteran respite and recovery program.

However, with 2020 Anzac Day community gatherings across Australia scuttled by the onset of COVID-19, instead, Robe has had to patiently ‘quarantine’ plans for the big weekend for a year. “With the easing of restrictions and a strict COVID-safe operational plan in place, all of that has changed and 2021 will see R2R’s Anzac Day Event come back bigger and better than ever,” she said.

“The event will start on the Friday with the Veteran’s Ambrose Golf Day, followed by the “match of the round” on Saturday and finishing with Anzac Day on Sunday.

“It will be a community collaboration with the Robe Golf Club, Robe Football Club, Robe Netball Club and the Robe RSL.” Robe 2 Recovery is a grassroots program started in 2015 by local farmer and photographer, Jacqui Bateman and made possible with the assistance of then facilitator Justin Brown from Veterans SA.

Supported by a board made up of local residents and Defence Force veterans, R2R has expanded to Phillip Island, Cobden, Port Lincoln and proposed in Albany, WA. “Veterans who are identified as requiring support are referred to the R2R program. The veterans and their family are booked into accommodation in Robe for a short stay,” Ms Bateman said.

“They are greeted by a welcoming basket of goodies – donated by local businesses and local people – accompanied by a short note, thanking the veteran for their service. “It can be an emotional acknowledgement, with the township supporting the program entirely free-of-charge.

“Every little thing we do shows just how much we care. “It’s about saying thank you. “For Robe 2 Recovery members, it’s about giving back to the Robe community, thanking supporters and sponsors, showcasing the respite program and importantly, creating awareness about what small towns can do.”

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