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Anzac Day Commemorations In Australia: People’s Attitude

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The origins of ANZAC rituals and practices across Australia Across Australia on ANZAC Day there are many rituals and practices that take place in commemoration of the fallen. Today we have created rituals and practices to commemorate those who fought for Australia on ANZAC Day, and these include commemorative services, marches and reciting ‘The Ode’, a poem by Laurence Binyon. However, other practices such as the gunfire breakfast, playing two-up (a coin betting game) and listening to ‘The Last Post’ have been carried on from the war. The first ANZAC Day march took place in 1916 on ‘the Corso’ in Manly, Sydney, NSW. Marches now take place all over Australia and are a way to honour lost friends and publicly express comradeship. ‘The Ode’ originated from ‘For the Fallen’ a poem published in 1914, and became used in association with commemoration services in Australia in 1921. Today ANZAC Day marches and ‘The Ode’ are ways we can pay our respects to the fallen soldiers and remember what they did for us.

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Gunfire breakfast was originally a British tradition where troops were given a cup of tea before their first parade and today has become a morning gathering held on ANZAC Day where people can eat and remember those that fought in the Second World War. This is similar to two-up, a gambling game played by the soldiers in the war which today is only legally played on ANZAC Day. ‘The Last Post’ originated in the war to signify the end of the day’s activities but today it is sounded at commemorative services such as ANZAC Day to indicate that a soldier has gone to his final rest. How does the media report ANZAC Day commemorations? In today’s society, the perception many have about ANZAC Day is mainly based off articles, adverts and news reports from the media. When reporting on ANZAC Day commemorations the media provides many symbols, themes, narratives and languages. This year’s Manly Daily newspaper reporting on ANZAC Day wrote about the narrative of a local soldier, Private Charles Gordon, that fought in WWII, this has been a common theme used in ANZAC Day articles. The newspaper displays imagery of a soldier’s silhouette in front of a sunset.

The newspaper also addresses the meaning and purpose of ANZAC Day as well as its main themes, narratives and languages in the quote: “Celebrate Our Freedoms; Remember Their Sacrifice; Honour Our Traditions; and Look After Your Mates.” – Jim O’Rourke, 20th of April, 2019. The newspaper also interviews Chief Petty officer, Zamri Burns, a member of the Royal Navy. Within the media interviewing veterans and military officers are a recurring theme because they are seen as one of the most dominant voices regarding ANZAC Day providing insight and experience into its narratives. Coverage by the SBS talks of Prince William attending a commemoration service in New Zealand. The online article uses a video to display imagery of military planes flying overhead, as well as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern laying a symbolistic wreath of poppies at a cenotaph at the civil service at Auckland’s War Memorial Museum.

The video further presents a common military theme associated with ANZAC Day, soldiers marching as a bugle plays the ‘Last Post’ as the crowd then pay their respects with a minute of silence. The Guardian coverage reported ANZAC primarily through the use of imagery. Their collection of images included; the breast of Dave Murtagh, a Vietnam veteran wearing his and his father medals. Medals are a large symbol on ANZAC Day. In the coverage there were many images that included poppies, on the breasts, hats, in wreaths and thousands held on walls at the Australian War Memorial. Poppies are one of the most recognised symbols on ANZAC Day and have been associated with the remembrance of the fallen after being adopted into the ANZAC culture when they flourished on the battle-scarred fields of war the First World War. Within the Guardian coverage there is also an image displaying hundreds of people gather at the Shrine of Remembrance as the sunrises.

This image well demonstrates the groups that commemorate on ANZAC Day, showing some younger people (25-35) but evidently displaying the most dominant group to be the middle aged demographic (40-60 years). However, when reporting on ANZAC Day the media does not only address the positive aspects but also the negative. The ABC reported ANZAC day by addressing the conflicting views of ANZAC day. In an article entitled, ‘What young Australians think about ANZAC day’ a journalist interviews 5 young people on their views on the day and if it is relevant to them today. The article is accompanied by an indigenous female wearing a t-shirt with an indigenous flag. The way that the media reports on ANZAC Day commemorations is constantly shaping our views, values and beliefs of the day. This is evident in the way the media reports on the commemorations and how this has influenced the symbols, themes, narratives and languages and groups we associate with ANZAC Day. How do people respond to ANZAC Day commemorations? In answering how people respond to ANZAC Day commemorations, I used survey monkey to survey a wide range of people aged between 30 to 50. The audience were educated and most likely to have left wing political views and this may have impacted my survey results. Overall, 12 people completed the survey.

The results demonstrated that: People believe ANZAC Day is a time to acknowledge everyone of all ages, past and present who have served for Australia and in war (This is evident in question 1 of the survey conducted where 10/12 people strongly agreed that ANZAC day commemorations should acknowledge the service of all Australians who served in wars both past and present). People believe that ANZAC Day is a day when the nation of Australia and all those who contributed in war can come together to commemorate and recognise all those who have sacrificed so much in war in order to maintain peace, no matter how big the role they played. Therefore, many believe ANZAC Day should not represent the Australian ‘way of life’, as today it has negative connotations of nationalism and racism, and it is not inclusive of the multicultural society we live in (This is evident in question 4 of the survey conducted where 12/12 people strongly agreed that ANZAC day commemorations should include Australians from all cultural backgrounds and all ages). Without the inclusiveness of other races conflict can arise.

Many believe that ANZAC Day should not be a day to reiterate how great of a nation we (This is evident in question 8 of the survey conducted where 8/12 people disagreed that ANZAC day commemorations should provide opportunities to educate the public about the Gallipoli campaign) are but to acknowledge and remember its people. It is a time where people can reflect on the immense costs to maintain the kind of society we want to live in (This is evident in question 7 of the survey conducted where 8/12 people agreed that ANZAC day commemorations should be sombre and reflective). People believe that it is important to commemorate war and recognise and remember those who have made great sacrifices for their nation and its strong relevance to today. It is important because it reminds us that war is a way of resolving conflict with great costs and how is something to be avoided (This is evident in question 5 of the survey conducted where 10/12 people agreed that ANZAC day commemorations should be used to promote peace?).

Commemorating war helps us to remember how fragile peace is and how we should do all we can to preserve it. What views have been voiced in criticism of ANZAC Day? ANZAC Day commemorations continue to receive contest and criticism on how the day has been losing its spirit, being commercialised and is not inclusive of the Indigenous Australians. One critical point of view is that ANZAC Day has transformed from an event of remembrance to a festival-like atmosphere. It was once a time for reflection on sacrifice and service in war but it has begun to lose its spirit within the younger generations, who today see it as a time to be proud of their country’s greatness and nationalistic identity, without knowing the extreme sacrifices that were made. This belief is a result of the day’s commercialisation and image within the media. An example of commercialisation is the Woolworths ‘Fresh in Our Memories’ campaign which appropriated images of servicemen and woman with less care about the ANZAC identity and more for financial benefits. Another point people make about ANZAC Day is that it is only one day of the year in which the nation comes together, now not to remember but celebrate and many feel that the contributions of veterans is ignored throughout the rest of the year and are forgotten. Many critics argue that ANZAC Day commemorations are not inclusive of other races and cultures that served in the Great Wars.

Today, the contribution of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in war is not widely commemorated. They fought for Australia because it too was their country and they wanted to protect it. However, in a country that is multicultural they are forgotten, they died in vain, they died for us. This can be seen in this quote from Gary Oakley: “…We’re not citizens, yet we’re willing to die for this place, we’re willing to die for non-Indigenous Australians, have a think about that one….” Conclusion Anzac Day represents the values we stand by as a nation. It commemorates our shared Australian values of mateship, self-sacrifice, equality, courage, resilience, loyalty, and respect. It is also an important reminder of our freedom and the basis on which we have represented our country to maintain the freedom we have and the society we live in. The day is defined in the strong words, “Lest we Forget”. They demonstrate how ANZAC Day does not glorify war, but commemorate and honour the great costs of the sacrifices made. Through it we can remember that war is a way of resolving conflict which is to be avoided. Today, as ANZAC Day is passed down to our generation it is up to us to continue to maintain the ANZAC spirit and commemorate the heroes who risked their lives for us.

01 February 2021

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