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No changes to Anzac Day law despite junior sport concerns

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The State Government says it’s not considering amending Anzac Day commemorative legislation to prevent junior sport from being played before noon on the national day, despite the RSL raising concerns following complaints from parents.

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A government spokesperson said while some veterans and members of the public were concerned that junior SANFL was being played on Anzac Day morning, it was “supportive of the position held by the Northern Territory and South Australian RSL” that “community sport should not be banned on ANZAC Day morning”.

“We appreciate the sacred nature of the day and encourage young people to engage in honouring the sacrifice of the heroes who have protected our way of life in conflicts and peacetime operations both past and present,” a statement said.

“Many families will choose to attend Dawn Service and then engage in junior sports afterwards, where further commemoration of this important day is usually conducted.”

Under the Anzac Day Commemoration Act 2005 South Australia, community sport and entertainment is allowed on Anzac Day before noon on the proviso that there is no entry fee to the event.

Similar legislation exists in other states, including NSW and Victoria.

SA/NT Returned and Services League President Cheryl Cates said the organisation had received a number of complaints that Sunday morning’s junior football games might prevent children from being able to pay their respects and participate in the game.

Cates said the league would consider seeking to have the current legislation amended.

“The SANFL have been fielding complaints, people have come to us. Parents are saying, ‘we can’t go to ANZAC Day’ and the little child is saying ‘but I want to go to Anzac day because they think it’s important’ but they don’t want to let down their team mates either,” she said.

“Some people are becoming rather passionate about this.

“Let us put this into perspective.

“If families have attended a dawn service or commemorated with Light Up the Dawn, then respects have been paid. The rest of the day should have some joy in it.”

It comes as a number of suburban Anzac Day events have been cancelled and the Brighton service moved from the Arch of Remembrance at Brighton Jetty to the larger Brighton Oval to meet COVID-19 safety requirements.

Cates said while Anzac Day wouldn’t fall on a weekend for another six or seven years, if it continued to clash with community sport the day’s meaning could slowly be eroded.

“It affects more in country regions … because a lot of the children in the country are involved heavily in the community and if their sport goes ahead before 12 o’clock they are not going to be able to assist on Anzac Day,” she said.

“We have to have discussions with the appropriate people and if necessary we will see if we can have the Act changed and work towards having that done if Anzac Day falls on a Saturday or Sunday in the future.

“The thing that worries me is if this keeps happening … it will diminish it.

“But for two days every six years, I think there has to be a little bit of give and take on both sides.”

SANFL General Manager of Football Matt Duldig said the league had worked with clubs who wanted to reschedule Anzac Day morning games to Friday night, to allow families to attend commemorative services and make their matches.

He said with more than 300 games scheduled across the weekend some matches would continue to be played on Sunday morning, with the league “encouraging our junior clubs to embrace Anzac traditional and observances if possible”.

Duldig said the junior roster could not have been changed.

“Due to the school holidays we couldn’t start the season any earlier. Had we pushed back the season start to week later, we are then into May which we feel is too late in the year considering all other football would have commenced weeks ago,” he said.

“After such a challenging year for community clubs and a shorter season in 2020, our SANFL juniors clubs also requested a return to a 14-round season which we simply could not have delivered had we started a week later without running into the weekend of the SANFL league grand final in September.”

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