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Kiran Gupta reflects upon the Anzac Day Address as well as discussing what ANZAC Day means in a contemporary Australian context.
In this year’s ANZAC address, the Rev opened with a quote describing the “double duty of ANZAC Day [as honouring] the dead and inspir[ing] the living.” In the context of Australia’s history and commemoration of the day, this is a very important thing to consider. It is, of course, our duty to honour those that have come before us and who fought for a cause much greater than themselves. However, in doing this, we also acknowledge the values the ANZACs stood for, and what they mean in the context of contemporary Australian society. From this, we can determine how the ANZAC spirit lives on, not only in a commemorative sense, but also in the way that it inspires Australians.
The ANZAC legend is one that is an integral part of Australian culture and history. Whilst Remembrance Day provides a necessary opportunity to reflect upon all the lives lost on WW1, it could definitely be argued that ANZAC Day captures more public attention because of its inherent links to the construction of a Post-War national narrative. In recent years, there has also been a concerted effort to include all Australians in the commemoration of ANZAC Day. Although First Nations peoples were not considered citizens by the government at the time of the war and only received a fraction of the pay for service, it is estimated that over 1000 First Nations peoples volunteered to serve in WW1 and thousands more joined in WW2. For Colin Watego, as well as being a “healing time” and an opportunity to reflect on sacrifices of First Nations Veterans, it is an “opportunity to keep their legacy going through,” he said to ABC. When considering this, the importance of ANZAC Day to many parts of the Australian community can also be seen.
There has also been a greater push in recent years to recognise the ANZACs of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds, many of whom received gallantry awards during the war. The inclusivity that is being increasingly shown on ANZAC Day reflects the significance of this day for all Australians, regardless of their background and relationship to Australia. Former Race Discrimination Commissioner, Professor Tim Soutphommasane described this phenomenon as “as a touchstone of mateship.” He said, “when you adopt a national identity you inherit a tradition, with all the benefits and responsibilities that come with it. And one of those responsibilities is to remember.” This rings true for a vast majority of Australians.
I think this is a really interesting point. Personally, I have no direct connection to any ANZAC soldiers. My parents migrated to Australia long after the wars were over but even without direct ANZAC lineage, I still feel it important to commemorate the lives of the ANZACs and the values that they stood for. In his benediction, the Rev mentioned some of these values as “dignity, loyalty, honesty and fidelity.” These values are timeless and fundamental to the Australian and indeed, human spirit which is why I think ANZAC Day is so important to so many of us.
How these values manifest is a very interesting thing. This year, with the new challenge of commemoration whilst social distancing, the manifestation of these values was particularly poignant. At least in my community, many people stood on their balconies or in front of garages to lay out wreaths and light candles. Even in a time of extreme social distancing, it was quite incredible to see how we could commemorate the ANZAC spirit in a meaningful way, although physically separated.
So, what does this mean now? Even though Australia is a changed society, both demographically and culturally, the values of the ANZACs still ring true. The importance of loyalty and dignity, especially in a world that is changing at a frenetic pace, is absolutely paramount. On top of this and most importantly, ANZAC Day provides us with an opportunity to commemorate the sacrifices that those who have come before us and reflect on what it truly means to be an Australian in the 21st century. In doing so, we contribute to something that is larger than ourselves. The continual growth and development of the identity of Australia as a nation. As we spend ANZAC Day apart, that is something that we should certainly remember.
Lest We Forget.