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The Australian Great War Association - historical group pays tribute to Anzac traditions

Mark Kennedy is a long-time member of the SSAA who has been one of the figures instrumental in promoting the cause of the Australian Great War Association (AGWA). Until recently, Mark served as secretary of the historical group, whose mantra is to preserve the memory of those who served in the Great War. The Association’s members don military fatigues modelled on uniforms from the First World War and also march with replica firearms, which would have been used in that epic conflict. Proudly, the AGWA formally states its main aim: “Through re-enactment, we bring 1914-18 alive and make a living memorial to the Anzacs”.

The group’s respectful and dignified appearances have been the centrepiece of various military events held all around the country for the past few years. Mark has very much been part of those tributes. “It all started about 15 or 16 years ago, but it was very small back then,” he said. “But now we have about 30 members nationally.”

Mark, who lives in Avondale Heights in Melbourne’s north-western suburbs, has been gratified about how things have grown, but is now resigned to playing a less hands-on role. “I was secretary until a few months ago, but am moving back to Queensland,” he said. “I am still on the committee, but won’t have time to deal with correspondence and such other business. But I am helping out as the new man finds his feet.”

Mark stressed that he felt the AGWA possessed a unique aura compared to other historical groupings. “There are a lot of other groups similar to us who call themselves re-enactment groups. But strictly speaking, most of our cut and thrust is ceremonial support rather than just re-enactment,” he said. “By that, I mean through parades, RSL clubs and shrines.”

There was no surprise about which occasion merited a major build-up. “Anzac Day is always the big one,” said Mark. “And also in 2012 and 2014 we have been to the MMMR [Midlands Military Meet and Rendezvous] in Campbell Town, Tasmania.

“However, our biggest effort was probably the last Avalon Air Show where there was a cast of about 48. There we did actually do a re-enactment of a Lone Pine scenario, where the Anzacs took on the Turks. The show goes on every two years and we have the potential to go back for the next one.”

Another outing recently on the agenda for the AGWA was at Taminick in Victoria. “It is normally 1600s through to the 1800s, but due to the Anzac Centenary, it was thrown open to multi-period,” said Mark.

Outside the pomp and pageantry of the special dates, the association keeps on its toes with regular get-togethers. “We meet once a month at Oakleigh RSL for drill night,” said Mark. “There are full uniforms worn and we are armed. There is a bistro before we split into about four groups.”

Having been a SSAA member since the late 1980s, Mark is all too aware about the stigma sometimes wrongly associated with bearing firearms. “Because we actually use firearms in the public domain, we have to be extra careful,” he said. “But we are always looking for members.”

Given the historical standing of the Anzac traditions, Mark and his colleagues should have no trouble on that score.

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