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Swanston Street works will force Diggers on to shorter Anzac march

Date

Carolyn Webb

Hoping for a return: Vietnam veteran Brian Tateson on Swanston Street, where he and comrades were first cheered in 1988.

Hoping for a return: Vietnam veteran Brian Tateson on Swanston Street, where he and comrades were first cheered in 1988. Photo: Angela Wylie

A CHERISHED tradition will be broken on Anzac Day with the Diggers' march moving away from the CBD.

The City of Melbourne's $25 million overhaul of Melbourne's Swanston Street forced Sunday's Moomba parade onto St Kilda Road.

Now it is revealed that on April 25 the annual Anzac Day march will be curtailed to largely avoid the street.

The main assembly point for most of the expected 12,000 war veterans and descendants will be outside the National Gallery of Victoria on St Kilda Road.

They will march south down St Kilda Road and Anzac Avenue to the Shrine of Remembrance.

Post-World War II veterans and their descendants will start the march from Flinders Street. But the NGV is ''the official start line'', according to the chief marshal, Lieutenant-Colonel David Blackwell.

Last year the starting point was the corner of Flinders and Swanston streets, with the post-World War II contingent starting from Collins Street.

The new route will slash the march's length from 1.5 kilometres to 800 metres.

RSL historian Brigadier Keith Rossi said although the change had been ''forced on us'', ''the ageing of the World War II veterans has given rise to discussion about shortening the march for the past 8 or 10 years''.

Lieutenant-Colonel Blackwell said: ''Last year we were concerned the march was too far for the World War II veterans. I don't want to see a veteran collapsing on the forecourt going up to the Shrine.''

Swanston Street has hosted the march since 1916 when a few hundred diggers marched across Princes Bridge to St Paul's Cathedral.

Subsequent marches wound through CBD streets, always including Swanston Street, to finish at the MCG in 1920, and from 1925 to 1935 to finish at the Royal Exhibition Building. There was no march from 1921 to 1924.

In 1936 the first march down Swanston Street to the Shrine took place and in 1946 there were a record 46,000 marchers.

Vietnam War veteran Brian Tateson, 65, said when he started marching in 1988, his Armoured Corps assembled at Lonsdale Street. Previously shunned as symbols of an unpopular war, they were feted on the trek down Swanston Street.

Last year they assembled in Collins Street.

''I'd like it to be retained, walking down Swanston Street,'' said Mr Tateson, whose father and grandfather fought in World War II and World War I respectively.

''It's a great feeling, to walk that distance. The recognition comes out, people clap, you do feel a great sense of pride.''

''I don't think [this year] it'll be the same as marching through the city,'' he said.

A City of Melbourne spokeswoman said that while the revamped Swanston Street would be able to host parades, ''a decision on the future location of the Anzac Day Parade has not yet been made''.

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