How to commemorate Anzac Day during COVID-19 with veteran Dr Andrew Doig - National Dental Care

Anzac Day is one of the most important national events of the year, where we come together to commemorate Australian and New Zealand war heroes who have served and died for their countries. With this year’s celebrations being disrupted by Coronavirus, events such as parades, dawn services, and playing two-up at the pub with friends, have all been cancelled.

With many people unsure of how to pay their respects this Saturday, we spoke to lead dentist at National Dental Care Townsville, Dr Andrew Doig, who served from 1995 until 2002, on how he plans to celebrate in isolation.

Joining the Defence Force

After getting a scholarship with the RAAF in his 3rd year of university in 1995, Dr Doig served alongside both the Royal Australian Army and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). “I was initially posted to RAAF Base Amberley whilst I completed my studies, then upon graduation I moved to Lavarack Barracks in Townsville where I assisted the Royal Australian Dental Corps in providing dental services to over 4,500 soldiers. After June 2000, I was then posted to RAAF Base Townsville until I discharged in June 2002,” says Andrew.

Deployed to Bougainville as part of a peace monitoring group, Dr Doig would often travel to remote villages to provide aid, such as immunisations and emergency dental treatment, to the locals. “The day would often comprise of finding some shade under a palm tree and setting up a chair, local anaesthetic, extraction gear and cold sterilisation, to begin seeing local villagers in pain,” Andrew explains. “Children would often line up first and then it was the adults turn. By the end of a day I would have extracted some 100 or more teeth. This was often a challenge without surgical equipment and performing on locals who had badly broken teeth!”

Dr Andrew Doig with Major General Cosgrove in Bougainville (PNG), Anzac Day 2000.

The rewards of the job

“Being able to give back to the local community was one of the most rewarding parts of my deployment,” says Dr Doig. “Helping someone in pain who otherwise had no way of fixing it, that’s a wonderful feeling. We would always find time to socialise with the villagers as well, often playing football or volleyball, which I really enjoyed.”

Along with helping local communities with emergency dental care, Dr Doig was commissioned to be part of the RAP medical team. “With them I assisted triaging and managing multiple gunshot and machete wounds, and helped out with skin grafting and amputations. It was definitely a testing and eye-opening experience.”

Dr Andrew Doig in PNG.

What will you be doing this Saturday 25th of April to commemorate the occasion?

Although traditional services and celebrations aren’t happening this year due to the Coronavirus pandemic, that won’t stop people like Dr Doig from commemorating the brave Australian and New Zealand soldiers from the comfort of their own home – or driveway.

“I would normally celebrate Anzac Day at the dawn service down at the Strand in Townsville, but obviously this year is different” says Andrew. “Instead, I plan to download an app called ‘Anzac Day 2020’, which displays a single burning candle, and have a driveway candlelight vigil out the front of my house. The app also has either a live broadcast of the National Service or a pre-recorded short reading of The Ode, The Last Post, a minute of silence and Reveille.”

“It was 20 years ago that I celebrated Anzac Day in Papua New Guinea whilst serving my country, and it will be one that I’ll always cherish. But no matter where I am, whether in PNG, Townsville or in my house, I’ll always remember and honour the sacrifices made by all of my fellow service men and women. As we all should.”


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