Today Australia and New Zealand celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli. Yet ANZAC Day commemoration goes beyond the anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli in 1915. It is the day on which we remember Australians who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations. The spirit of ANZAC, with its human qualities of mateship, courage, and sacrifice, continues to have meaning and relevance for our sense of national identity. It is something we all talk about but cannot clearly define – values that evoke our sense of nationalism and the uniquely Australian character others admire.
As the ANZACs waited, cloaked in darkness, preparing to go ashore, none could have foreseen how the Gallipoli landing and resulting campaign would influence generations of Australians and New Zealanders for centuries to come. The ANZACs found themselves in a desperate predicament, fighting a determined enemy who held a significant tactical advantage. They made up the deficit with determination, tenacity and courage. Countless stories of bravery, self sacrifice and compassion in the face of appalling adversity emerged from the battlefield. In the grim months that followed, values of teamwork, mateship, selflessness and courage were forged. These stories have become the ANZAC legend – embedded in the ethos of the Australian Defence Force and entrenched in Australian culture.
Yet the legend of ANZAC legend is so much more - the scale of sacrifice that occured in forging a national identiy for a young Australian nation is hard to comprehend today. It was result of the loss of the lives of thousands of individuals. We should never forget that sacrifice, nor should we forget that the ANZAC legend was built on the actions of individual men and women in service to our nation. Every name on the Australian Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial represents someone with family and friends who mourned for them and a story about a life cut short by war.
I am proud to have served in the Australian Defence Force, including on overseas operations. Back in 1996 I visited Gallipoli - a life defining and changing trip that made clear the scale of the sacrifice across such a small piece of Turkish land. In an era of short attention spans it is incumbent on all Australians to recognise our past. As Australians and New Zelanders we are all heirs of the ANZAC legacy. We must embrace it with great respect and dignity and aspire to uphold its ideals. It represents the virtues we seek in ourselves as Australians and we should all continue to honour the memory of those men and women who suffered to secure and build our nation.
To all the brave men and women who have served for our country and to those who continue to serve, we all owe you immense gratitude. Equally we should all acknowledge the sacrifice made by the families of these brave men and women who have never served but are connected to it by virtue of a loved one's service.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Lest We Forget