During my Study Abroad experience in Perth, Western Australia, I witnessed how Australia remembers the soldiers who have fallen on behalf of their country.
Australians are known around the world for being laid back, relaxed, easy going, and friendly. Yet this stereotypical levity is altered a bit each year on April 25th. This day is known as Anzac day in Australia and New Zealand, and is a national memorial day of remembrance for fallen soldiers of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC). Offices are closed, shops open late or don’t open at all, and kids have the day off from school. For a population that doesn’t take much seriously, Australians take this day very seriously.
On Anzac day, Australians gather before dawn along beaches or near flagpoles and memorials for a remembrance service. In major cities, tens of thousands of people gather at war memorials for televised services while in smaller villages, folks gather for intimate beachside ceremonies. The services differ by location, but generally follow a similar pattern of prayer, hymns, the playing of bugle calls, the dedication of a wreath, an address, and the national anthems of Australia and New Zealand. All of this takes place with silent contemplation and the awe-inspiring backdrop of the rising sun.
The first official Anzac day was celebrated in 1916 to commemorate soldiers who died in a specific campaign. The Gallipoli Campaign was an allied invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula, held by the Ottoman Empire at the time. The objective of the mission was to capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople. The Anzacs stormed the beaches of Gallipoli at dawn on April 25th, 1915, but were immediately met by the devastating power of the Ottoman army. The Anzacs did not stand a chance, but they fought for their lives as hard as they could. Even though they were completely overwhelmed by their opposition, they continued to fight on the Gallipoli Peninsula for eight months before being forced to retreat at the end of 1915. The celebration of a glorious loss like this speaks to the Australian cultural value of giving it a go. n, Anzac day has been expanded to remember all the soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand military who have fallen in the line of duty. This occasion remains an important part of the Australian identity. Aside from the dawn service, communities gather for barbecues, sporting events, and to catch up with family members. Even during these joyous occasions, there is an underlying acknowledgement of the seriousness of Anzac day, and time is set aside to pay homage to the Anzacs.