Paul was a refugee from Sudan. He had been in Australia for less than a month when someone asked him what he thought about Gallipoli. Of course he knew nothing of the story of the ANZACs, or their place in Australian history. His Grandfather had never fought there. His Grandmother had no stories of returning troops. Despite this, there was something about this mans story that was remarkably similar to the story of the ANZACs.
As a 17 year old he had woken one morning to the horror of war. A surprise attack had taken his family and shattered his town. He had walked three weeks to the Kenyan border and spent the next five years as a refugee hoping for a future. He displayed amazing courage and endurance. He was a survivor of incredible destruction who wanted to go forward. While he didnt know it, he had what generations of Australians have called the spirit of ANZAC.
Pauls story represents the stories of thousands of other Australians who have immigrated to this country, or come as refugees. Their stories may differ but their determination and risk taking spirit is the same as that of the ANZACs.
It was the first time Australians had travelled in mass since the convict days. The Australian soldiers were not as refined and well mannered as the British soldiers. They were untried and ill prepared, so were sent to a training camp in Egypt. The ANZACs were supposed to go to the Western Front, but considering the rough nature of the Australians and their inexperience in battle, they were sent to what was expected to be one of the less demanding conflicts. History now shows this was one of the most devastating battles in Australian History. The Australians were to reopen a supply route to Russia, forcing Turkey out of the war.
During the early hours of April 25, 1915, the first ANZACs stepped ashore and struggled up the steep cliffs of the Gallipoli Peninsula, amidst heavy machine gun fire from a well positioned enemy. The battle lasted for eight long months ending with the withdrawal of the ANZACs. The reason for the Australian and New Zealand troops being sent to face certain death still haunts the minds of those who seek answers.
As a result of the Gallipoli experience, the struggling national identity of Australians became focused. A new spirit for Australians emerged and continued to develop. In showing tremendous courage and endurance even when they were faced certain death, the ANZACs set a benchmark for all Australians to follow.
What happened to the ANZACs at Gallipoli was not dissimilar to the experience of their convict ancestors, who were often sent to Australia for petty crimes. Even through the hard times, they survived looking after each other, committed to building a better life.
It is apparent that the ANZAC spirit is, in fact, the Australian spirit. It was there in the convicts and early settlers and was focused so clearly by the ANZACs at Gallipoli. The ANZAC spirit is about loyalty and bravery amidst extreme hardship.
The implications of what took place at Gallipoli can be viewed from the perspective of four distinct groups of Australians. Indigenous Australians, Post WWII Migrant Australians, Refugees who have become Australians and Anglo Saxon Australians. Although the Anglo Saxon Australians are the only Australians who include the ANZACs in their ancestral story, the tradition and the spirit of the ANZAC is not meaningless to other Australians, there is a common thread between all of them.
The fact that Australians who are not of Anglo Saxon descent, acknowledge and commemorate ANZAC day is a prime example of the loyalty and mateship similar to that shown by the ANZACs in Gallipoli. Mateship is something Australians have valued for centuries. It is about loyalty and courage, the courage to stand up for friends even when times are tough.
Many migrants have displayed a similar spirit to that of the ANZACs. Facing an uncertain future, they had had to adapt to an alien culture and environment. Many refugees, such as Paul, have shown the courage and determination displayed by the ANZACs in 1915, as they have made their way to, and settled in Australia.
In the short time Australia has been a nation, it has faced many hardships. The people who were the most affected by the hardship, were the Aborigines. They were discriminated against right from the moment the first fleet landed in Australia. Since then, Australia has become a very multicultural society. For a country of such diversity, Australia has made significant advances in finding common ground and accepting their differences. An important reason for this is because of the mateship model set by the soldiers at Gallipoli.
In Australia, the importance of ANZAC day is often taken for granted. ANZAC Day is not only about commemorating what happened at Gallipoli, but also about celebrating what the ANZACs did for Australians. Not only did they sacrifice their lives, but they displayed that which we value most in our culture, the ANZAC or the Australian spirit and tradition. It remains alive and well to be carried on by Australians to come.