Anzac Day apart but together at Brisbane War Widows units

Residents at the two Australian War Widows Queensland unit complexes in Brisbane were able to mark Anzac Day together with solemnity, despite traditional Anzac Day commemorations being cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

8 July 2020

Alastair Tomkins, wearing a grey suit, plays the Last Post on a trumpet on Anzac Day 2020. He is playing to the war widows residents of a Marina Court unit complex in New Farm, Brisbane.

Alastair Tomkins plays the Last Post (Photo: Stewart Ross)

Two music educators, Alastair Tomkins, from Sheldon College in the city’s east, and Jamie Rule, from the north’s Mueller College, went to the unit complexes, at New Farm and Redcliffe, respectively, to play the Last Post and Reveille as part of Anzac Day ceremonies there.

Around 25 War Widow tenants spaced themselves around lawns at the Marina Court, New Farm, for a ceremony; they were joined by other war widows from New Farm, some Legacy members and two officers from the Fortitude Valley police station.

Meanwhile, a small ceremony was held at the Redcliffe unit complex with 23 resident attending.

Australian War Widows Queensland State president Jenny Gregory laid a wreath at Marina Court.

Jenny Gregory as the Master of Ceremonies at the War Widows’ Anzac Day 2020 commemorative service at Marina Court, New Farm, Brisbane.

Jenny Gregory leads the War Widows’ commemoration at Marina Court (Photo: Stewart Ross)

Mr Tomkins said the idea to take the Last Post and Reveille to communities that were isolated by COVID-19 restrictions grew out of his plans to play in his own driveway at dawn. He formed Music for Mateship, an organisation of musicians to bring music to people isolated by the pandemic on Anzac Day.

He put feelers out and played the Last Post and Reveille at New Farm and another set of units that housed some Korean and Vietnam veterans and, when Australian War Widows Queensland expressed interest, he arranged for Mr Rule to play at Redcliffe and to play at New Farm himself.

‘For a brass musician it’s (Last Post and Reveille) the shortest gig you might do but it’s also possibly the most emotional gig you ever do,’ he said.

‘Doing this seemed to be the right thing to do and I felt as though I was giving back to the community.’

Marina Court residents told media they usually gathered in a local park for Anzac Day services, but this year was very different.

Thelma Hughes, 96, who used to march on Anzac Day, wore her Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force blazer and said driveway gatherings were a fitting way to pay respect.

Another, Betty Woodford, 90, said: ‘It’s hard, but this is the best way we can do it.’

Thelma Hughes wearing her Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force blazer and another elderly woman is having a conversation with Thelma. There are some woman in the background sitting down on the grass.

Thelma Hughes wore her WAAAF blazer (Photo: Rachel Johnson)