An Opportunity to Reflect, Remember and Honour Stories of Service 

Cohuna Village, RM Begg |

Across our homes, Anzac Day marks a supremely important date in the calendar, offering our residents and staff an opportunity to reflect, remember and honour those who have made the greatest sacrifice, and those who continue to serve our country. 

It also gives us a chance to recognise the many members of our Respect family who hold personal connections with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, as well as our Defence Force more broadly. Whether that be through their own past service, including volunteer work, or the connection of a loved one, there are so many stories emanating from our communities worth honouring. 

One such story of service is that of Joyce Strawhorn, who has been a much-loved resident at RM Begg in Kyneton, Victoria, for the last four years. 

Joyce’s WWII experience speaks volumes about her character and sense of selflessness and community spirit. Initially volunteering in the Women’s Air Training Corp, she later enrolled in the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Airforce in 1941 (she was the 57th person to sign up), before joining the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS). 

Joyce speaks warmly about the volunteer efforts of women during the war, noting simply: “We were asked to volunteer, so we volunteered.” 

“We worked our hearts out. Everyone did. It wasn’t regarded as sacrifice, we wanted to do our bit to help out.” 

During the final stages of WWII, Joyce drove ambulances for the AWAS. This led to a memorable experience supporting returning POWs upon their historic return to Melbourne. 

“When the war had ended, all the ambulances lined up at Spencer Street Station to pick up the POWs and drive them to hospital. I remember we drove through screaming crowds,” she says. 

Reflecting on this experience, Joyce shares one memory that sticks out in her mind, something she says she thinks about every Anzac Day. 

“I was talking to a young man who was a POW and he told me that the Japanese had actually allowed the Red Cross to deliver letters from back home to captured Australian soldiers. I remember him saying: ‘Those letters kept us alive’.  

“It really got to me. It was such a beautiful thing to say. I still recall one of the POWs at the hospital, after the war had ended. He was being visited by his girlfriend and he greeted her by waving a handful of her letters.” 

Another one of our residents who proudly shares a strong affiliation with Anzac Day is Ray Coates from Cohuna Village in Cohuna, Victoria. 

Ray’s first connection with the Australian Army was through his uncle, who was killed overseas during WWII. 

“He was timber cutter from Cohuna. And even though I was a little kid, I still remember him, when he first joined up. I used to carry a photo of him, and every Anzac Day I think about his sacrifice,” Ray says. 

Later, Ray completed his own national service, including an extra stint in the armed forces – and while he never served overseas, he says his time involved was full of positive experiences where he leant a lot about himself as well as the dedication of the people around him.  

And now, each year, Ray is proud to take part in the annual Anzac Day march in Cohuna. And while he says he ‘may be slowing up’, it’s something he plans on doing for many more years to come. 

“For me, Anzac Day is about connecting with the community,” Ray says. “Seeing old mates, acknowledging those who served, recognising their families. 

“We have a great march here at Cohuna and you will be surprised at the amount of people who are from the region who return each year to participate. 

“Their fathers or their grandfathers may have served or were killed overseas. And they still come back and march in this town. It’s a great thing to catch up with all these people and come together as a community.”

Elsewhere, across our communities, clients of our Day Therapy Centre in Launceston shared a special get-together, in honour of Anzac Day and those who have sacrificed so much for our country.Anzac Day at DTC

In a day filled with reflection, joy and heartfelt gratitude, our community of clients enjoyed sharing in each other’s company while taking part in activities like a unique boot-throwing competition, and singing and dancing (courtesy of a memorable live musical performance). For lunch, they shared a few Aussie favourites: damper with jam and cream, a BBQ and pavlova for dessert.

What a fantastic opportunity to celebrate mateship, kindness and togetherness, all while paying tribute to our many heroes – now and in the past.

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