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ANZAC in Australia: A History & Culture Lesson

Last weekend I was lucky to experience Aussie culture on a much deeper level by taking part in the Anzac Day commemorations all throughout Brisbane. But what exactly is this holiday and why is it often considered the “unofficial” Australia Day? ANZAC is an acronym standing for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps., and 25 April marked the centennial of the 1915 (WWI) Gallipoli, Turkey invasion by these armies. Although incredibly unsuccessful, Australians adopted much of their national identity from Gallipoli and give it heaps of respect. All of the soldiers (or diggers as they were referred to in Oz) were volunteers, many of them university age and despite their failure they showed bravery, egalitarianism, mateship, and other characteristics that embody “Australianness.” I’m so glad that I was able to appreciate and really grasp why Australia has such a connection with the events that happened at Gallipoli. Instead of reciting a textbook to you, I’ll include some links of the history of Anzac and the Anzac legend if you are keen to learn more about it:

The Anzac Book, written & illustrated in Gallipoli by the Men of Anzac

I’m taking a class this semester called Contemporary Australia, and through that I was able to attend a seminar about the history of Anzac last Tuesday, just a few days before the Anzac Centennial. Although I am not Australian, I felt so deeply moved by seeing how much meaning they place on Gallipoli and how it defines them as a nation.

On Saturday morning 25 April, Anzac Day, I got out of bed at 3 am to get ready for the centennial dawn service in Anzac Square right in the centre of the Brisbane CBD (city). My friend Maddie and I made our way into the city before 4 am to thousands of people gathered to be a part of the ceremony. It was still dark outside but there was something in the air that just made the square seem so special. The ceremony began at 4.28 am with a short parade of Australian service men & women and military music. The service itself took place in the square and was¬†projected onto a large screen for the 30,000 people in attendance at the ceremony. It was the most memorable experience by far, as well as the most meaningful to stand among thousands of Australians and pay respects to the men who fought for Australia in their first major military involvement as a Commonwealth. I could tell that it was something that truly brought them together and gave them common history as they proudly sang “Advance Australia Fair”, Australia’s national anthem, near the closing of the service.

Afterward, I left in awe of such a beautiful hour I was able to connect with Australians on a deeper level. It truly taught me what it means to connect with another culture, not just acknowledge or tolerate it. It was important for me to make the effort to attend (even thought it did mean I was awake at 3 am) because I am a guest in a nation with completely different history than that of my own. It was an eye opening experience that taught me something I could have never learned in a textbook or just walking around the city of Brisbane on a regular day. I’ll cherish and carry the memory with me throughout my life, and I hope to be able to apply it again one day in connecting with yet another culture.

There were heaps of people out and about throughout the day celebrating Anzac in the parades, services, and other activities around the city and throughout all of Australia. I ended the day with the rest of my program at the NRL (National Rugby League) Brisbane Broncos game. It was a completely packed Suncorp Stadium for the annual Anzac Day game and we showed up to support in our Maroon and Gold! It reminded me a bit of American Football but without the padding and a twist on the rules. It was great to join Australians in appreciating a sport they thrive on…..and even though I sadly STILL don’t understand rugby, we made a valiant effort trying to follow the game.

Here is some footage/photos of both the Anzac Dawn service & the Brisbane Broncos game to get a better idea of what I had the opportunity to experience!


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