Feature written by Meg Baresic

There are arguably few days more important to Australians than ANZAC Day, with the 25 of April marking a day on which we come together to honour those who have served on behalf of our country. Every year, thousands of people attend the Anzac Day Parade in Brisbane to pay their respects to past and current veterans. The Returned and Services League of Australia, more commonly referred to as the RSL, is one of the core organisations responsible for organising and promoting the parade, with hundreds of volunteers playing a crucial role in ensuring the day goes forward.

When speaking to Scott Mackie, the Executive Director of the Anzac Day Parade, he is quick to speak to the importance of volunteers within the RSL on both Anzac Day and throughout the rest of the year. On Anzac Day, volunteers can act as parade marshals, informing people of what to do and helping to direct the service. Other volunteers assist with transport, help veterans into vehicles or communicate with veterans to ensure they are comfortable for the duration of the parade. Some volunteers are also involved in manning information tents and directing the general public.

Bela Mehda is a long-standing volunteer with the RSL, having joined in 2017 and occupying several different roles throughout her time with the organisation. Bela now oversees the RSL’s social media pages and is responsible for taking photographs on the day of the service. When asked what she enjoys most about her current role, Bela’s face lights up:

“I just love seeing the pride in the veteran’s faces when I ask to take a photo. I also get to meet so many different and interesting people. I ask them one question and they end up telling me their whole story.”

It is these very stories, full of hardship and loss and love, that underpin the Anzac Day Parade.

When I pose the same question to Scott, he is quick to respond that he really enjoys the interaction he has with other people. “I love engaging with volunteers throughout the year and seeing everything come together in April”.  While Scott gets paid for the role he does, whether he comes to work happy or sad, he is always in awe of those who volunteer countless hours of their time and several years of experience to help make events such as the Anzac Day Parade thrive.

Listening to Scott and Bela speak of the important part that volunteers play in the Anzac Day Parade and the joy they derive from their role no doubt highlights the importance of paying homage to those who show gratitude for our fallen. The spirit of giving clearly lives on in the people around us, with the 25 of April providing a potent reminder of the gratitude we ought to extend not only to those who have served and continue to serve to protect Australia, but also to those who tirelessly volunteer in our communities. Their contribution keeps the Australian spirit alive.

The Returned & Services League of Australia advocates for benefits, treatment and the welfare of current and ex-serving members of the Australian Defence Force and leading the nation in commemorative services since 1916.

RSL Queensland provides vital services to veterans and their families, and much of this work couldn’t happen without thousands of passionate volunteers across the state. If you would like to support the Returned & Services League or find support you can find more information on their website here.

About Meg

Meg Baresic is currently studying a Bachelor of Laws and Journalism at QUT. When she’s not drinking coffee or catching up with friends, Meg loves chatting to and learning from inspiring and interesting people.

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