The importance of Anzac

Quakers Hill High School student Emily Frey, 16, is one of six students who will tour Gallipoli and other sites significant to the Anzacs after writing the essay below.

Why the Centenary of ANZAC is important for Modern Australia

The centenary of ANZAC is an important milestone commemorating a military campaign that has become that embodiment of the Australian way of life.  It will be a time to reflect on how we live our lives, remember all of those who have paid the supreme sacrifice to protect our freedom and to learn the lessons of the past so Australia cansuccessfully move forward as a nation.

Only a little more than fourteen years before 25 April 1915, Australia had become a commonwealth of colonies united under one constitution.  There were still very strong ties to the ‘mother country’ and Australians had already fought and died for ‘Queen and Country’ in a number of colonial wars such as the Maori Wars (1860 - 1863), The Sudan (1883 - 1885), The Crimean War (1853 -1856) and the Boer War (1899 - 1902).  In these conflicts Australians were attached to British formations and their identity was virtually lost to the outside world.

For Australians, World War I began when Britain declared war on Germany in August 1914. This led to Prime Minister Andrew Fisher pledging Australia’s full support of Britain. He committed as many men and material as the Empire needed to defeat the ‘Hun’.This is an example of an Australian trait that predates the ANZAC but is personified by the ANZACs, a willingness to give a helping hand in a time of need.

It is undeniable that war has played an important role in shaping Australia. The peaceful society that Australia is today is a result of our experience of war and its consequences for Australians on a national and personal level. For a valuable insight into the development of our nation’s cultural heritage one need not look past our rich military history.

‘ANZAC’ is a military acronym that was devised by Major General William Birdwood’s staff in Cairo in early 1915. It has become a household name, held dear by many Australians as a synonym for the intangibles that bind families and neighbourhoods together.

Even though the ANZAC spirit came from the loss and suffering of our people in wartime, it has given Australians a history to truly be proud of, characterised in the form of the ‘digger’ who personifies the values we share, despite differences in race, religion and culture.

Every Australian aspires in their own way to possess and express the values that are encompassed by the ANZAC spirit in their own lives such as courage, bravery, mateship, loyalty and selflessness. The example shown by the diggers in times of great hardship, Australia strives to follow in times of peace and prosperity.

The First World War is known for its sheer brutality and indiscriminating violence. It was the first time that the states and territories of Australia had fought together in a military conflict under the same constitution and banner. Australia experienced a devastating loss of nearly 60,000 lives over the duration of this bloody war.

The population of Australia at the time of World War I was just shy of five million and a significant percentage of young Australians would never return home again. This was a greatly traumatic experience for Australia as a newly developing nation. So it mustn’t be overlooked that the courage of the ANZAC extended beyond the battlefields to the backyards of suburbia and to the barns and farms of outback Australia where still it dwells.

The ANZAC spirit was truly born when Australians began to hear and repeat the stories about the great bravery, courage, mateship and leadership shown by the diggers during the First World War and Gallipoli Campaign.  Over the subsequent century the tradition of the ANZAChas been a positive influence in the development of our independent defence force.

Our involvement in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Malaya, Afghanistan, Iraq and several peacekeeping operations represent the courage, leadership and mateship that Australians have shown and has been carried on to influence modern Australia today. Names like ‘Kokoda’ and ‘Long Tan’ are so much more than the places that Australians have met their enemy. They are the places that Australia grew out of the blood and the mud.

The past century has proven that Australia has an extraordinary military history of which we can be proud. The sacrifice of the ANZACs has ensured that we can move forward together as a young nation and continue to keep Australia the safe, peaceful society that it is today. Australia currently works to honour our fallen by ensuring that their children need not make the same level of sacrifice. We remember our diggers through our work in the United Nations, bringing peace to an increasingly fractured world.

The United Nations (UN) is an association of membernations that have pledged their governments to the ideals of world peace.Australia was one of the first nations to sign the declaration for the United Nations. Our signatures on that document are significant and mark the first time that Australia was formally recognised internationally as a nation independent from Great Britain.

This new identity on the international stage was a hard won recognition of our sacrifices around the world and across two major conflicts. Indeed, without such sacrifice, Australia would be hard pressed to have obtained a voice on the Security Council, recently used to speak for our citizens in tragic circumstances.  These sacrifices were and continue to be sacrifices worthy of our most solemn commemoration.

To keep our promises and to remember our fallen, Australia has been involved in the United Nations treaties on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)in 1968, 1970and today.The NPT is an international treaty which has an objective of preventing nuclear weapons and weapons technology.

With this treaty the United Nations wishes to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further achieve the goal of nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament.

Australia is also prominent in the fight against drug and people smuggling and trafficking, as we have been since the early days of the League of Nations, increasing trust and cooperation between countries.

The United Nations works together with different countries as did the ANZACs, showing leadership and courage while fighting for the freedom and rights of all Australians.

The ANZACs fought for the freedoms that Australians still enjoy such as the freedom of speech extending to any medium, freedom to travel which includes the right to move freely within the country and the right to leave and enter another country.

These rights and freedoms are what the Australian diggers have fought for and are what Australians continue to fight for today. Worldwide, Australians are known for being prolific travellers. We embrace cultures and people as our own. We should remember where and how this reputation began.

The diggers that fought in WWI lost much of their prejudice to skin colour and race in the teeth of war, and were happy to accept and tolerate people’s differences in a way that other Australians found difficult in 1915 and continue to struggle with today.

The digger’s tolerance and acceptance, their mateship, courage, leadership and bravery have paved a path to a bright future for all Australians in this 21st century society. As a young Australian, I aspire to remember the courage, leadership, mateship and bravery modelled by our ANZACs and to apply these qualities to every aspect of my life.