BALLARAT MP Catherine King will hold a public forum later this month after the federal government announced that a ballot could be used to decide who goes to the centennial Anzac Day services at Gallipoli in 2015.
The number of public places for the dawn service has been capped at 10,000, of which 80 per cent are proposed for Australians, and 20 per cent for New Zealanders.
Ms King said a ballot was the most fair and equitable way to allocate attendance passes, but added that diggers should be able to skip the ballot if they wanted to take part.
“I have a personal preference that people from the veteran community wanting to go should be first in line, but that’s my view,” she said.
“Either way we need to come up with a way of making sure we have a fair process for that to occur.”
Veterans’ Affairs Minister Warren Snowdon said on Monday that public forums would be held across the country so Australians could be involved in the allocation process.
“We recognise that many Australians will want to attend Anzac Day commemorations at Gallipoli in 2015. However, we face some significant realities that will mean not everyone will be able to do so,” Mr Snowdon said.
“The Anzac Commemorative Site, where the dawn service is held, is in a rugged and remote part of Turkey. The geography, which was a feat for the Anzacs almost a century ago, remains a challenge today.
“There are also heritage and conservation measures in place to preserve and protect the battlefields, meaning the area cannot be expanded.”
Mt Clear College teacher Ian Simpkin, who organises the school’s two-yearly trip to Gallipoli, said balancing demand with conservation would be a tricky task.
“Having been there a number of times and knowing how popular it is, there’s got to be some system in place, because the area is not all that large, and when you have masses of people walking around you just can’t fit them all in,” he said.
“I can understand the concern and maybe the ballot is the best way to do it.”
But Mr Simpkin, who first visited Gallipoli in 1998 and has made another 10 trips since, said he would rather visit Anzac Cove away from Anzac Day.
“I probably won’t go (for Anzac Day 2015), because I prefer to go when it’s quiet. I find it much more personal and much more fulfilling,” he said.
“I think I can appreciate it more when I’m there on my own or with a small group exploring and taking in the natural beauty, the solitude and the significance of the place.”
Those wishing to attend a forum can register at www.gallipoli2015.dva.gov.au.
The Ballarat forum will be held at the George Hotel at 6.15pm on Monday, October 29.
Editorial, page 15