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Now you don’t see it, now you do: up early at Villers-Bretonneux

The Secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Major General Liz Cosson (Ret’d) told Senate Estimates last week (pp. 139-40 of the Proof Hansard) that the Dawn Service at Villers-Bretonneux, Anzac Day 2019, would not be held. Instead, there would be a service at 10.00 am.

The Secretary cited what seemed like perfectly sensible logistical reasons for the change, particularly ease of travel from Paris. She pointed out that the Dawn Service at this village in Northern France had only existed since 2008. She reported some favourable and some unfavourable reactions from French locals and tour operators to the change.

At the weekend, there was a ‘shock horror’ piece in the Murdoch press about the change. It’s behind a pay-wall but the text is here (search ‘Miranda’, not Devine but Charles).

Today, the Minister, Darren Chester, ‘instructed’ his department to reinstate the Dawn Service. His presser doing so was an unusually curt example of its type.

When it comes to sensitive matters like this which are at the heart of our entire nation, it is vital that the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) conducts full consultations with ex-service organisations and the general public before they make any changes. That’s what the public expect, it’s what the Prime Minister and the government expect.

Consider yourself told, department. But … it appears that the Minister was happy about the change – until the Prime Minister stepped in. The Minister cited ‘feedback from ex-service organisations and the general public’ but the RSL seemed a bit mystified about the to-ing and fro-ing. The Murdoch press took due note of the outcome (paywall). More in The Australian.

David Stephens

25 February 2019 updated

10845848-3x2-700x467Villers-Bretonneux (ABC/Pascal Rossignol)