The Spirit Lives On

Birra-li Riethmuller
Harristown State High School

Each year we commemorate Anzac Day to remember and show our respect for Anzac soldiers. Courage, sacrifice, mateship and determination are the values we recognize as "Anzac spirit". The story of John Simpson Kirkpatrick is that of an ordinary Australian serving his country in wartime. He had Anzac spirit, just as his mates did fighting beside him. His job took courage, it took determination, showed incredible mateship, and cost him the ultimate sacrifice – his life. This spirit lives on today, not only in soldiers serving overseas, but in the actions of ordinary Australians in their everyday activities as well as in extraordinary circumstances. Just as women participated in the war effort in fields such as business, agriculture and industry, sacrificing personal relationships and family, so today Australians are prepared to give of themselves to help others.

There have, it seems, always been Australians generous of spirit and ready to make sacrifices for their mates and country. Even earlier than World War 1, Australian women were prepared to participate in a dangerous war zone. Hundreds of women, professional and unqualified, offered to go as nurses with the first contingent to the Boer War. At first, applications were turned down by authorities. Eventually a quota was accepted for the second contingent and 27 nurses set sail. Later, approximately 60 nurses were so keen to help that they even paid their own sea passage so as to serve in South Africa (Denton, 1987, p. 130).

It was not only the men and women on the battlefields who displayed the Anzac spirit during wartime. The Australian Women's Land Army took over the agricultural duties of the men who had gone overseas. Women, whose expectations had been to marry and start families, found themselves very capably driving tractors, buses and taxis, cultivating and harvesting produce, working in factories, and keeping businesses and Australian society in general working. Mary Lillian Gibbs, for example, drove trucks at the Maribrynong Ammunitions Factory, whilst the male members of her family gave their best on the battlefields (Tall Trees Family History). These women used their determination, mateship and courage to fulfil these duties and sacrificed their personal ambitions for a time to take over while the men were away. And then when the men returned they sacrificed these new, sometimes fulfilling roles, to go back to their previous ones.

Today, the Anzac spirit survives in the thoughts and actions of both enlisted and civilian Australians. From people in volunteer nursing services to volunteers helping in the State Emergency Services, the Anzac spirit pushes these people forward to help others.

On Tuesday September 14 1999, Channel 7 cameraman, Peter Collins, was driving home late at night when he heard about a lost boy and went straight to the search scene. At 11:30 PM the search was called off, to resume at daylight. Peter stayed out for another hour, searching the streets and thinking about his own children at home. He found the child at his school. Peter Collins was determined to find the young boy even though he was searching alone. He had courage to search by himself, he sacrificed time with his own children to help find a stranger's child, and his sense of mateship inspired him to seek the same security for this stranger's child as he knew his own children had. 'I stayed out ... thinking about my own kids"(Jabs, 16/09/99, p. 3).

"Somebody helped my grandfather, and now my mother is on her own and my nephew helps her, so 1 thought I'd give something back"(Boyle, 14/09/99, p. 19). These are the words of Betty McBride, a Toowoomba businesswoman. Although she leads a busy life, like innumerable other Australians, Betty is still prepared to find the time to help senior citizens through her involvement with Toowoomba Community Care Transport. Sacrifice of personal time and a desire to help others embodies what we identify as the Anzac spirit. It is echoed all the time by volunteers involved with organisations such as Meals on Wheels, Lifeline counsellors, the SES, and Surf Lifesavers.

Australian soldiers are once again being called on to participate in armed conflict in East Timor, and ordinary Australians have been asked to help by making either financial donations or by donating clothing and toiletries (The Chronicle, 18/09/99, p. 7). The reason appeals are made is because care services recognise that Australians are willing to help in times of need. Our politicians make financial donations in times of emergency on our country's behalf. We never hear that Australians are unhappy with our money being spent to help others within our country and overseas.

Doctor John Crozier, a Sydney surgeon and Army reservist, has the skills to help in extreme emergencies and feels it is "his calling" to do so. The ABC TV programme, Australian Story, profiled Dr Crozier's separation from his young family as he prepared for service in East Timor. His determination to help and the Anzac spirit that drives him requires considerable sacrifice of his family life and courage to carry on. Dr Crozier's mateship helps his colleagues find strength (ABC-TV, 16/09/99).

Each year on April 25, Australians commemorate Anzac Day with services all over the country. "In these uncertain times there is strength to be gained from reminding ourselves of those ideals", "the central pillars of our life today: freedom, tolerance and fairness to all people" (Day, 1999, p. 48). Australians cherish the qualities embodied in the Anzac spirit – courage, mateship, determination and sacrifice – and demonstrate it in their actions. Through us the Spirit lives on.


Curran, Tom, 1998, Not Only a Hero: an illustrated life of Simpson, the man with the donkey, Anzac Day Commemoration Committee (Queensland) Inc., Brisbane.

Day, Mark, 1999, Pulse of a Nation: A Portrait of Australia, Harper Collins Publishers: Sydney.

Denton, Kit, 1987, Australians at War, For Queen and Commonwealth, Time–Life Books Australia Pty Ltd. Sydney.

Boyle, Lin, "The price of time: Volunteer drivers give priceless hours for community transport", The Chronicle, Toowoomba, Toowoomba Newspapers Pty Ltd, 14.09.99.

Jabs, Leigh, "Cameraman's sharp instinct zooms in on lost youngsters", The Chronicle, Toowoomba, Toowoomba Newspapers Pty Ltd, 16.09.99.

"Appeal for Timorese", The Chronicle, Toowoomba, Toowoomba Newspapers Pty Ltd, 18.09.99.

ABC-TV, "Australian Story: A True Calling", 16.09.99.

Tall Trees Family History, Intemet URL

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