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Anzac Day 2016: Alternate march held in Melbourne to protest against RSL rule change

More than 100 people have attended an alternative Anzac Day march and ceremony in Melbourne, in a protest against rules for the official proceedings.

The World War I descendants gathered near the Shrine of Remembrance after this morning’s dawn service to pay their respects.

The group is frustrated with Returned Services League (RSL) rules brought in last year, that do not allow them to walk with their ancestors’ banners in the march.

Instead, the banners are carried by single representatives at the head of the parade, while the descendants walk together at the rear without the battalion markers.

Only World War I descendants are affected by the rules.

Brian Nicholson and Ray Jelley attended the alternative march because they said it was important to them to march behind the banner.

“You just feel proud to be able to do it,” Mr Nicholson said.

“It’s what my grandfather fought for and what he’d want me to do.”

Mr Jelley said the banner emphasised the comradeship and mateship forged by those who fought in WWI.

“It built bonds between the men that went on, and they went from Anzac to the Western Front and lost so many at Pozieres,” he said.

“So it was that mateship … and standing together. The banner is a symbol as much as the shrine is a symbol.”

Descendants want to ‘keep tradition going’

Mr Jelley said he hoped one day the descendants would again walk at the head of the parade behind the banner.

“There’s not a lot of us. Hopefully they’ll do it next year,” he said.

Denise Mears, whose grandfather was in the 39th Battalion, said the banner had enormous importance for her.

“It’s not that the descendants are trying to take the place or get any accolades … we know we weren’t at the war,” she said.

“But it’s just to keep the tradition going.”

The ceremony had its own readings, bugler and recitation of In Flanders Fields.

Chris Waters, president of the 14th Battalion, said he believed it would have to be held every year to give WWI descendants a meaningful commemoration.

“I think it will get bigger and bigger,” he said.

“It’s only a matter of time before they start cracking down on other descendants as well.”

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