11 November 2021
Photography: James McPherson Photography
At 11 am on Remembrance Day trams, cars and busses stop as bugle players stationed at iconic Melbourne landmarks - including Parliament House, Flinders Street Station, and the State Library - as well as major CBD intersections - including the Collins & Russell, Flinders & Elizabeth, Russell & Bourke, the Collins & Swanston, and the of Collins & Spencer Streets – in unison, begin to play The Last Post.
In an unusually special moment this year, a father and son have stood on a street corner and raised their bugles in unison.
Richard and his son Aaron, aged 14, were stationed at the intersection of Spencer and Collins Streets in the city.
"I guess it will add to another story of our connection and I hope I can pass on to my son the values I was taught, that it’s not all about you, it’s important to give back to the community in whatever way you can, with whatever talent God gave you."
With no known family link to service, Richard’s involvement and interest in commemorative days gradually grew when he was 18.
“My first involvement with the RSL was when I played at the Dawn Service in Trafalgar [in the West Gippsland region of Victoria]. It was just a moving experience and it inspired me to write an essay for my English class. I’ll always remember that experience. You could tell that the people who were there really, it meant a lot to them.”
Richard is a member of the Stonnington City Brass, a community brass band that performs at many events throughout the year, including various commemorative services.
The band is led by Kevin Hillier, an former Royal Australian Navy Band Music Director and President of the Frankston RSL. Kevin joined the Navy as a Junior Musician at the age of 15 and went on to teach at the Defence Force School of Music.
Richard is sure Kevin’s military connection influenced him to regularly volunteer on Remembrance Day, having started in about 2003.
“I was working in the city and I thought it would be a good thing for me to volunteer for.”
The Last Post rouses deep-seated emotion in many, and Richard is honoured to be a part of that.
"When I stand there, I really just focus on the job of getting a good sound, and that every note I play is worthy of all the servicemen and women that went away and didn’t come back."
"I just want to do it to the best of my abilities. Hopefully it reminds people that the life we have didn’t come cheap," Richard said.
His son Aaron feels the same.
“Filled will pride and joy.”
His mind also turns to the many generations that came before him.
"I think about respecting the people who fought for our freedom in World War One."
Growing up in Moe in Victoria’s Gippsland region, Richard signed up in grade 8 to play the trumpet in his school band.
“I could already read music, which was an advantage, so I put down that I wanted to play the trumpet, and I’ve been playing ever since.”
Aaron’s musical journey launched even earlier, starting the trumpet in his first year of school.
“I probably practice around an hour a day and in recent weeks I’ve spent about 15 minutes on the Last Post every day.”
And he’s the talk amongst all his mates.
"They think it’s pretty cool and they think I’m pretty lucky that I get to go."
On the back of Victoria’s battle with COVID, Richard hopes this Remembrance Day will particularly inspire Australians to be positive and grateful.
“It’ll perhaps remind them that we’ve gone through hard times before and we’ll get through it.”