As dawn broke over the shores of Gallipoli on April 25th 1915, a legend was materialising. It was one of courage, mateship, determination and sacrifice so strong and binding, that today, over eighty-six years later, that same spirit lives on through the nation that it touched. From this remarkable spirit of the ANZAC, created solely by volunteers, evolved a unique sub-culture that has continued to inspire generations of Australians to reach great heights of achievement that were previously unknown to themselves and the world. Each and every Australian who consciously lives by the ANZAC legend enables the flame of the ANZAC spirit to continue burning brightly for future generations.
The official Australian war historian, Charles E. W. Bean gave a voice to the ANZAC spirit when he described it to have "stood, and still stands, for reckless valour in a good cause, for enterprise, resourcefulness, fidelity, comradeship and endurance that will never own defeat". The observations of Charles Drage, an eighteen-year-old Royal Navy midshipman who remarked on the "lines of long, lean Australians in their broad brimmed hats" affixes further emphasis to the ANZAC legend, conjuring an image of strikingly fit young men, ready to defend their mother country. While enjoying the peace that the ANZACs of various conflicts fought so desperately to achieve, we bear witness to the fact that the ANZAC spirit has filtered far beyond the battlefield and into the diverse Australian society of the new millennium. Balancing above troubling issues such as terrorism, global warming, injustice and computer viruses that are reported in newspapers around the world each day, are the inspirational stories of those Australians who demonstrate the qualities of the ANZAC spirit.
Due to the effect that the ANZAC legend has had on our culture, the volunteer has always been an important part of the Australian ethos. It is therefore fitting that this year has been dedicated to honouring millions of volunteers as a part of the International Year of the Volunteer celebrations. One fine example of the positive input that youth volunteers have in the community is fifteen-year-old Sian White. Each year, Sian gives over six hundred hours of her time to voluntary work with elderly citizens, the disabled and young children. Her concern for the survival of Australia’s unique wildlife also impels Sian to dedicate much of her energy to programs, which encompass preservation and improvement of wildlife habitats. She also provides practical support to ensure the well being and nurturing of endangered species. Furthermore, this amazing young woman’s fundraising efforts total in excess of $20,000. On December 5, at an assembly for the International Volunteers Day for the year 2000, Sian explained what motivated her to perform such a demanding schedule of volunteer work, "You may never meet the person you are helping, never hear them say thank-you or see their happiness. But you know somewhere, someone is better off for what you have done for them". It is evident that the future of the ANZAC ideal of the volunteer is in safe hands with this sincere, community-minded young ambassador.
In 1999, as commander of the International Forces in East Timor (INTERFET), the then Major-General Peter Cosgrove was thrust into the media spotlight and emerged as the personification of the ANZAC spirit. His actions in East Timor were described as upholding "the highest ANZAC tradition of dedication and determination to get the job done with compassion". Combining military skill and professionalism, Major-General Cosgrove’s resourcefulness and sensitivity successfully accomplished Australia’s mission to
re-establish peace out of the fear, death and destruction that had shrouded the newly independent nation of East Timor. The sense of ANZAC responsibility and concern was very much alive throughout the East Timor ordeal.
In peacetime too, Australians have assumed the mantle of the ANZACs and dedicated their lives in a battle against ignorance and injustice. Gynaecologists Catherine and Reg Hamlin are two Australians who epitomise this sacrifice. In an outstanding display of humanity, the Hamlins have alleviated the anguish of many Ethiopian women who sustained horrific injuries through childbirth. Since their arrival in Ethiopia in 1959, Drs Catherine and Reg Hamlin have cured over 20 000 women, helping them to ascend from a lifetime of physical suffering and social isolation. Through their ceaseless determination and compassion, the Hamlins later developed the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in 1975. Sadly, Dr Reg Hamlin has since died, however his wife, Dr Catherine Hamlin has bravely continued on their life work through disturbing and, at times dangerous, political turbulence. Her courage, resolution and sacrifice to carry on the quest to "stamp out this long-neglected and shameful maternal tragedy" exemplify the ideals of the ANZAC spirit and provide inspiration to us all.
For such a comparatively small nation, Australia has made an enormous impact on the world’s sporting arena. Strong concepts of teamwork evolved from the trenches of Gallipoli and have played an integral part in Australia’s sporting success. Various other aspects of Australia’s physical prowess were reported by British war correspondent, Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, when he described the ANZACs who scaled the cliffs of Gallipoli at dawn on the 25th of April, 1915, in awe, as a "race of athletes" whose "physique is remarkable". Sporting heroes of today, such as Ian Thorpe, Cathy Freeman and Pat Rafter embody the ANZAC characteristics of determination, endurance, ingenuity and humility, becoming role models for all sportsmen and women – a feat that our ANZACs would have fully appreciated and applauded.
Through the contribution of countless Australians, the ANZAC spirit has continued to bless our shores and, through various operations, the shores of other nations around the globe. All aspects of Australian life have benefited greatly from the remaining legacy of the ANZACs of Gallipoli – the ANZAC spirit. As the years roll on and our nation faces new and daunting issues, one thing is certain – that while the essence of the ANZAC spirit continues to dwell in the hearts of all Australians, peace and freedom in our nation will live on forever.
Bean, C. E. W. Anzac to Amiens, (Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1946)
Cotter, R. Change and Continuity – Twentieth Century Australian History, (Macmillan Books, Melbourne, 1998)
Hamlin, Dr C. A Story of Hope – The Hospital by the River, (Macmillan Books, Sydney, 2001)
Laffin, J. Damn the Dardenelles!, (Sun Books, Melbourne, 1985)
Robertson, J. Anzac and Empire, (Hamlyn Australia, Melbourne, 1990)
International Year of the Volunteer Australian Homepage, Volunteer Stories – Sian White,
<http://www.iyv2001.gov.au/storybook/April/sian.htm> , Canberra, (accessed 10 September 2001)
Retired Lieutenant Colonel Burke, A., The Spirit of ANZAC, <http://www.anzacday.org.au/spirit/spirit2.html>, Brisbane, (accessed 9 September 2001)
Returned Services League Homepage, Media Release – 2000 ANZAC Peace Prize, < http://www.rsl.org.au/press/24Apr00.html >, Canberra, (accessed 10 September 2001)
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