22nd Apr 2012 2:44pm | By Editor
Does the Anzac Day tribute held on April 25 have a place in the 21st century? It’s billed as one of Australia’s and New Zealand’s most important national occasions, yet critics indicate support could be waning. Here we ask two experts for their views.
Every year on April 25, the soldiers who fought at Gallipoli, Turkey, during World War I are remembered. Poignant dawn services are held for Anzac – the acronym for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps – which is marked by marches and a national holiday.
The book What’s Wrong With Anzac questions the tribute’s relevance in the 21st century, and asks whether it is time to cast it aside. Here, we ask one of its authors and an Anzac supporter whether, nearly 100 years on, Anzac Day is past its sell-by date.
by Lindsay Birrell, London Legacy president - www.londonlegacy.org
Anzac Day means much more to Australians than recalling past military conflicts. During the first half of the 20th century, when the nation was wracked by two world wars and hardly a family was spared grief, Anzac Day allowed Australians to mourn the loss of loved ones.
Later, the 10 years of the controversial Vietnam War caused many Australians to question why their country should go to war at all. Some even blamed the soldiers themselves, even though many, like their fathers and grandfathers, had been conscripted into compulsory military service by the government of the day.
Thankfully, most young Australians today are spared exposure to military conflict. But that doesn’t mean we should forget those who continue to serve their country or forget the sacrifices made by earlier generations. These men and women helped make Australia the great place it is today.
Anzac Day gives us time to reflect on what really makes our country special.
Forget the politics of the day – wars are fought and sacrifices are made by ordinary men and women serving their country, not by the politicians who sent them.
Like it or not, much of the character of the Australian nation – mateship and sacrifice, resourcefulness and devotion, pride in our country and ourselves, even our cheeky larrikin spirit – was forged on the hot anvil of a war no soldier ever wanted.
Many Australians now see Anzac Day as a time not only to commemorate, but to celebrate our love of country. This is the very reason our forefathers sacrificed their own lives in the first place.
The infectious spirit of Anzac Day allows us to take time out from our busy lives on this one day of the year and reflect on what we have achieved, both as a nation and as individuals, since those first landing craft ground ashore at Anzac Cove.
Many Australians believe that as the first Anzacs struggled up the rugged slopes of Gallipoli and proved themselves in the heat of battle, the nation of Australia was truly born on the world stage.
The event had far less to do with military success or failure and much more to do with the quality of human endeavour. Militarily, the Gallipoli campaign was an abject failure, but for the emerging nations of Australia, New Zealand and Turkey it became a proud and defining moment in their history.
Today, Australia is a wonderfully diverse, multi-cultural and welcoming nation. Every Australian – from Aboriginal people to emigrants of every colour and creed – can stand shoulder to shoulder in proud celebration of what it means to be Australian.
And if you need further proof of what Anzac Day means today, particularly to young Australians, go along to the Dawn Service at Hyde Park Corner in London or any Australian city or town.
The Anzac Day dawn service in London will take place at 5am on April 25 at Hyde Park Corner, near the New Zealand Memorial. At 9.30am the Gallipoli Association will be holding a service its memorial in the Crypt at St Paul’s Cathedral
Click to the next page to read, "No, Anzac Day is no longer significant"
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