Since ANZAC is a primary theme of my paper, I figured it would be fitting to write a blog post for ANZAC day. It is celebrated every April 25 beginning at dawn, which coincides with the first ANZAC landing at Gallipoli. I first came across the term before I got to Australia in 2019 while I was looking up rules for mailing postage. One of the primary rules is that a package cannot have ANZAC written anywhere on its exterior unless it is the official ANZAC stamp. I had no idea what the term meant so I googled it and learned that it is an acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Before I studied in Australia, I never really knew of their involvement in WWI (or really anything else about the country besides kangaroos, Steve Irwin, and dangerous bugs). While I was there I took a course on Australian history and it is crazy how much there is to unpack there and how little is known of its rich history outside of the country.
Anyway, I happened to be there for ANZAC day and my friend basically implied that I was required to go. I thought it was crazy to get up at 3-4am to take the tram into town and I thought we would be the only people doing it. But the tram was running on a special every 5 minute schedule and there were massive crowds just to get on it. The train full of people was silent the whole way into Southport and when we got off, we joined even more massive crowds of people, still completely silent. After a few blocks of walking, we came to a stop in front of a statue of a digger soldier. I kept trying to quietly ask questions but got shushed, there aren’t supposed to be any words. It is supposed to be a quiet moment of reflection in the dark to think about how many soldiers were lost. Then just as the sun rises, there is a cacophony of gun shots, explosions, and screams. They were playing a recording on really high volume to imitate what it would have been like to land at Gallipoli. After that jarring opening, there are a few speeches by politicians, veterans, and family members. There are also performances by children’s scout groups. Finally, the national anthems of Australia and New Zealand are sung and a Haka dance is performed. Volunteers walk around and hand out cards with the poem below on them, everyone is expected to read the poem together to end the ceremony.
From there, there are a variety of events that take place. The RSL clubs host a gunfire breakfast, which is typically reserved for veterans and their families. In the afternoon, there are typically parades in the big cities and people barbeque at home while watching them on tv. Some families have more intimate traditions depending on if they knew someone that served in the war. My friend did not agree with the massive parade and felt like it degraded the gruesomeness of war. Her grandfather died in WWII and her great grand father in WWI. Instead of watching the parade, her family had a small gathering in which they remembered the men that died and took a shot of their favorite drink, whiskey.
ANZAC day has been criticized over the years but it is hard for critics to talk about the traditions without being accused of being against the soldiers. It will be interesting to see what happens to ANZAC day in the future. Once I am done my studies and my student debt is paid off, I plan on moving to Australia so keep an eye out for my future work on Australian history haha