ANZAC spirit and ideals are admired all over the world and are recognised by other countries as uniquely Australian. These become most prominent during times of hardship and misfortune where we all pitch in to help. This, the spirit of ANZAC, has been here ever since the First Fleet and indeed long before that. It has been strengthened by all the trials and tribulations, and has become stronger than ever in a nation now approaching the millennium.
Before we talk about the ANZAC spirit in wartime and in modern society it must first be clear what exactly that rare quintessence is and involves. The ANZAC spirit is the Australian essence which is unique to our country. It flavours every action of the Australian people. The ANZAC spirit is not definable in words, but rather is a tangible element in all Australian personalities. It is a recognisably "Aussie" trait, due in part to the multiculturalism and unity shown in our society. Right from the beginning when our ancestors came over on the First Fleet, the European migrants found that cultural differences lessened. They were still there of course, but in lesser degrees, as each and every person had to work together to form a life in this strange new land. This developed a feeling of togetherness that has been here ever since. During wartime this spirit was especially obvious to other countries through the loyalty, bravery, toughness and determination shown by the previously 'untried' soldiers and nurses at the front.
During WW I Australian troops and nurses at the front earned the admiration of many other countries for their toughness, mateship, loyalty and determination, in short for their ANZAC spirit. The Great War was the first war in which Australia fought as its own country. Soon after Federation, this was an exciting event and numerous men signed up 'for their country' to show the world what Australians could do. Many thought it would be a short-lived war and an exciting adventure. It became, however, a long and bloody nightmare from which many would never return. We went into battle as an untried, unproven nation and came out with the respect of the world. The ANZAC spirit and ideals of mateship and loyalty were very strong in the trenches at Gallipoli and at the Western Front. 'A sort of love and trust in one another developed in the trenches. It made us all very loyal to each other', twenty-year-old Ben Facey wrote after being sent back to Australia with internal injuries, a crushed leg and a bullet in his shoulder. Because of his courage and loyalty, his desire was to "be back with them". Just weeks after this, his two brothers were killed fighting at Gallipoli. Many other men were sent to Egypt and France, where battles swallowed soldiers like grains of salt. New recruits arriving in Europe were told by their commanding officers how loyal, strong and enduring Australian soldiers were. This was also true of the many Australian nurses heroically risking their lives to save soldiers at the front. The men and women at home were just as patriotic and eager to help their country with many making vital contributions.
Our soldiers, although most widely recognised, were hardly the only Australians with "ANZAC" spirit. Those men and women left at home were just as ardent in their war efforts. Men not enlisted worked on the factory assembly lines and some even went over to help 'Mother England' in her war production factories. Women were also allowed to work, another one of the startling changes brought on by the war. 'Prior to the war, it was assumed that for industrial purpose women were halfway between men and children… The war has destroyed this illusion… women have proved capable, even in highly skilled occupations, to turn out work at least as efficient, both as to quantity as to quality as that previously done by the men’. (FW Pethwick Laurence, The Woman Voter) Once women realised that they would not be penalised or looked down upon for working they went at it with zeal, many of them also throwing themselves into voluntary work, helping the country, community and the world. This voluntary work consisted of much, including holding charity functions, knitting, sewing and collecting money for the war efforts. Numerous amounts of people also engaged in friendly competition, to see who could help out the most. This courage and spirit has always been a part of all Australians. It survived through the war and still exists today in modern Australia.
In our country at present the ANZAC ideals are strong and thriving. The other day while in town, I observed an old lady trip over. Immediately quite a number of people, all of them strangers rushed to help her up and picked up her shopping. Another recent example of this would be the Australian response to Kosova and East Timorese refugees. We welcomed them into our country and rallied to provide what we could to meet their needs. As I sit here writing, people are at the refugee shelter in Marrara volunteering their time and resources to give assistance, food, shelter and help in order for the Timorese people to 'settle in' and feel safe. The truth is, that if one stopped to look they would see many such things taking place under their very nose. These are the little things that define a person, letting the ANZAC spirit shine through. Anyone can make a grand gesture and seem noble, but the things that take time and sacrifice bring out the true ANZAC spirits among us.
This, essence of ANZAC is seen in the way that we all pull together to help in times of suffering and pain, often not even our own. In times of war, famine and disease it is then that our ANZAC spirit shines through most clearly. This is what makes me feel so confident that our unique Australian persona and spirit has survived and will continue to do so in the future.
M. Clark, M. Hooper, S. Ferrier, History of Australia. 1988, Gosford, Ashton Scolastic.
S. Fabian, The Changing Australia, 1978, Australia, Rigby Limited.
D. King, Australians In War, 1974, Melbourne, Cassell Australia.
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