"Gallipoli was the turning point in Australia's history"
"Australians in Action', 'Their Baptism of Fire', Splendid Gallantry" - these first newspaper headlines about our campaign in Gallipoli published on 30 April 1915 laid the tradition of glory of which every Australian can be proud. But the very idea of Gallipoli does not have to centre on glory alone, or whether it was great success or failure or whether it bought about the desired result. Gallipoli needs to be seen in the light of the great challenges it brought about to the Australian people as individuals and as a nation, at home and in the trenches of a distant nation. Indeed, Gallipoli has to be measured in the way it forged the Australian identity and character. And because the long-term impact of war is evident everywhere today, we have to question, as we did in 1915, the wisdom of sending young untried men to war. We wonder if there was a way out. But there are lessons that we can learnt and the Anzac experience challenged us to rise in every way. We build a new nation through the ravages of war and Gallipoli became our turning point. It was that moment of time that the spirit of Australia came alive.
25 April 1915 is always remembered as the day the Anzacs landed in Gallipoli. That act alone accelerated enlisted at home peaking in July, when 36 575 Australians answered the call. [Adam-Smith 1982: 55] The full enormity of the plight of our troops dawned on all Australians. It brought out the rugged pioneers, the dairymen, the footballer and the professional and that ordinary Australian gave meaning to the word 'soldier'. "Life was not worth living unless they could be true to their ideal of Australian manhood" wrote Captain Charles Bean of his men on the Turkish lines in front of Krithia village. Even when Australia had the highest casualty rate of 65% [see Appendix 1] of any Allied force and when our men dropped like flies under fie, the spirit lived on.
Our Anzac horror defeat resulted in the question of whether participation in war was necessary. Could the pride of defending the empire even measure up to the devastating effects of war? Could heroism measure up to death? Prime Minister Paul Keating provided the answer in the 'Funeral Service for the Unknown Australian Soldier' in Canberra on 11 November 1993. "We have lost more than 100 000 lives, and with them all their love of this country and all their hope and energy. We have gained a legend: a story of bravery and sacrifice, and with it a deeper faith in ourselves and our democracy and a deeper understanding of what it means to be Australian".
When our forces stepped onto the shores of Gallipoli we were determined to reveal the spirit of Australia to the rest of the world. Indeed at that time, many an Australian had no confidence in the capacity of his people for any big undertakings. This is because they had never been tested before, especially in the trials of war. It took the impact of Gallipoli for the true Australian identity to evolve. The Anzacs rose to the occasion. Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, the war correspondent in Gallipoli, recorded one typical case "Not waiting for orders, or for the boats to reach the beach, the Anzacs sprang into the sea and rushed at the enemy's trenches". The Australian were, from that day forth, recognised for their courage, honesty, endurance, resourcefulness and loyalty. They became the legendary 'true Australians'. Today, the everyday Australian is one who volunteers, is loyal to his mates and country, treats others as he would like to be treated and respects character not status. He is carefree, nonchalant, independent and sometimes a bit of a larrikin yet still decent and innocent. The seeds of these qualities were planted in 1915 and have now born fruit - we understand what a 'splendid fellow' an Australian is and what a proud thing it is to be 'mate' to another Australian.
The legend of the Anzac states that Gallipoli was the turning point in Australian history because that was where Australia became a nation. Australia is said to have found herself in Gallipoli. Before the war Australia was known only as a branch of the British Empire. Through deeds and sacrifices of the Anzacs there emerged a powerful sense of nationhood. Our new sense of identity had given us a new need for nationhood. Ian Hamilton received a letter from an Australian soldier which stated "It was the first time Australia had ever gone to war as a body and we were determined to go through with it. Every man absolutely threw their lives away to make a name for Australia and to make things easier for others ." Our nation came together in this time of war and our six states became one Australia. Gallipoli was a symbol of the birth of this nation. Since that memorable time, Australians have shown their courage and determination in many times of hardship in World War II and the Vietnam War.
As the men fought in the trenches of Gallipoli, there was a major turning point for women's rights in the home front. The Australian Women's Service Corps (AWSC) was established in New South Wales in 1916. The AWSC Constitution heralded "a body of women united to forces the authorities to accept our services and let us do our share". That share was in the Australian Army Medical Service, the Australian Red Cross, Australian Comforts Fund and the Busy Bees. Thus began the foothold Australian women have in the workforces and life beyond the house.
It is on Anzac Day, each year, that we remember the great Australians involved in all wars. It is a time to commemorate the contribution of many of our brave young men and women whose courage gave Australia maturity. The Lone Pine Memorial in Anzac Cove paid special tribute to our soldiers who " shed their blood and lost their lives and.. are now lying in the soil of a friendly country " Indeed it was the Anzac experience in Gallipoli which has been the reason for Australia's nationhood and recognition in the world. The Australians at Gallipoli were responsible for creating the Australian identity which in time has been refined and moulded into the Australian character. And for all this we are grateful to them.
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2. Disher G Australia then and now Oxford University Press Australia 1987
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5. Howard A Australia and World War One Bay Books New South Wales Australia 1983
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7. MacDougall A Anzacs, Australians at war 1991 Reed Books Pty Ltd New South Wales 1992
8. Mason KJ Experience of nationhood - Australia and the world since 1900 Third Edition McGraw Hill Book Company Australia Pty Ltd New South Wales 1992
9. Triolo R The Australian Experience Cambridge University Press Australia 1996
Australian readers discovering democracy Curriculum Corporation Victoria Australia 1999
World Wide Web Site
Scicluna FL The Anzac Legend - Maltese contribution at Gallipoli
http://aboutmalta.com/grazio/anzac.html (10 May 2000)
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