Today is A.N.Z.A.C. day. It is a public holiday in Australia (and New Zealand) where we take pause to remember the men and women who have served and died wearing the uniform of our armed forces. Why we do this is not dissimilar to why other nations remember their fallen – to honour the dead, acknowledge their sacrifice, and take stock of where we are as a nation.
In remembering it is not unusual to consider what was fought for. It is also not unusual to believe that your military fights to protect the values that define your nation. To Australians, what are these values? Below I look at three quick takes on them: military, political and sporting.
The Australian war memorial describes the A.N.Z.A.C. spirit as a combination of courage, endurance, initiative, discipline and mateship. It is these values that are often reflected on during military dawn services on A.N.Z.A.C. day.
These dawn services juxtapose two polar opposite worlds. In doing so they provide a reminder of the need to defend what you believe in and the importance of your mates:
- Dawn was a dangerous time in conflict as it was a favoured time to launch an attack and so rising before the dawn is associated with preparing yourself defenses.
- Dawn is quiet and peaceful. And, as explained by the war memorial, this was often a time when returned soldiers looked for their mates when trying to make sense of the world they had returned to.
The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull believes our values are central to citizenship. Last week he made changes “putting Australian values at the heart of citizenship processes and requirements”. This included a new citizenship test that has been widely debated. Elaborating on our values he has been quoted as stating “Fundamentally, the values that bind us together are those ones of respect, the rule of law, commitment to freedom, democracy…”.
Major sporting codes in Australia incorporate A.N.Z.A.C. commemorations into their fixtures. At a minimum they tend to observe a minute silence. The AFL hosts a showcase game in front of a crowd of 100,000 people and awards an ANZAC day medal. The game, though entertainment, is also meant to showcase skill, courage, self-sacrifice, teamwork and fair play. These are the values the AFL believes best commemorates the A.N.Z.A.C. spirit.
From the solemn dawn services to the briefly solemn showcase sporting events there is a breadth of ways in which Australians remember our fallen. Irrespective of which you prefer, it would be unfair to suggest one does not have its place. It is without doubt important to reflect on and empathise with the past. But to not embrace the freedoms the past has provided would appear counter intuitive.
Both examples show values in action. Values are lived, not studied (perhaps that is why the new citizenship test has been met with skepticism). They are also expressed in many ways and its the expression of these values that we identify with as Australians. How would the A.N.Z.A.C.s like us to walk, talk and act? I’m not sure but they stood up for what they thought was fair and they stood up for others who could not do it alone.