'The Anzac spirit was born at Gallipoli in 1915. Since then it has been demonstrated not only by Australians in war but also by those whose contribution has been in other fields'
"On 25 April 1915 a new world was born. A new side of man's character was revealed. The spirit of ANZAC was kindled. It flared with a previously unknown, almost superhuman strength. There was a determination, a zest, a drive which swept up from the beaches on Gallipoli Peninsula as the ANZACs thrust forward with their torch of freedom. As they fell, they threw those following the torch so their quest would maintain its momentum. That torch of freedom has continually been thrown from falling hands, has kindled in the catchers' souls a zeal and desire for both our individual liberty and our countries' liberty. That desire has been handed down with the memory and bums as brightly as the flame which first kindled it ... Many foundation ANZACs have died, but their glorious challenge to catch the thrown torch shouts loud and strong to all." (cited in http://www.anzacday.org.au/history/anzac_story.html)
From the first moment of the ANZAC Gallipoli experience, to this very day many average and outstanding Australians alike have taken up the challenge, caught the torch, held it bright and high, and in the hope of emulating the immense courage, stamina, heart, devotion, sacrifice, bravery, determination and mateship that the Diggers once displayed at Gallipoli, have embraced the Anzac spirit and expanded, developed and confirmed the values it beholds throughout their life. This in turn has resulted in countless contributions in wartime and in peace, of little to great significance to our local communities, our nation as a whole and to other nations around us.
The earliest of successes due to the Anzac Spirit was in the setting of its birth place, war. Ever since Gallipoli, whenever Australian troops have been called to take the brunt of battles they have always fought with the same "never say die" endurance, that had first emerged when the original Diggers faced battle. Just as the Anzacs at Gallipoli had "proceeded to scale up the cliffs without responding to the enemy's fire" (cited in Robson, 1969 p46), Australian troops have continued to set themselves apart as among the Empire's best soldiers.
Throughout World War One in battles such as the 1916 Western Front campaign at Pozieres, where other forces had relinquished their position, Australians fought on despite being exposed completely to the enemy and again in the 1917 capture of Beersheba the bravery of the Australian Light Horse Brigade was confirmed as they charged at and captured Turkish trenches. This capture is believed to be one the last great cavalry charges of modern warfare.
The Anzac spirit was further expanded throughout World War II. When for the first time we were faced with a very real threat on our own doorstep, John Curtin, Prime Minister of Australia at the time, delivered an inspirational statement that resulted in a nation wide rekindling of the Anzac Spirit, "For remember we are the ANZAC breed. Our men stormed Gallipoli." (cited in radio broadcast, 1943) There was now a need for the W.W.II Anzacs to live up to their predecessors and so the Anzac Spirit was demonstrated throughout campaigns in North Africa, Malaya, Papua New Guinea, Timor and Borneo. In the words of the minister of the Australian army, Percy Spender during World War II "Memories of Gallipoli have now been revived." (cited in Tudball, 1991 p287)
The Anzac Spirit was to be called upon again decades later when Australia sent troops to fight in Korea and Vietnam in the aim of preventing the spread of communism which they believed wouldn't give everyone a fair go.
Most recently the principles of mateship, a vital component of the Anzac Spirit were demonstrated by the reaction of Australian Peacekeeping forces after East Timor's crisis that followed their election in 1999. Australia answered to East Timor's cry for help in remembering the support of the East Timorese during W.W.II in the decision to join troops from other nations to help restore order and uphold their democracy. We are beginning to witness the rewards of the Australian peace keeping forces this year, marked by East Timor's first democratic election. It is proof that the Anzac spirit has not only helped our own country, but has influenced nations around us to stand up for what is right.
However, the Anzac spirit has been carried beyond the barriers of warfare and into the ability for otherwise ordinary Australians to overcome other types of struggles that have faced them over recent years. Such examples include the 1997 Thredbo disaster. Two hundred fire fighters, police, ambulance and other rescuers demonstrated immense endurance and resourcefulness to save the life of one man. The one survivor Stuart Diver who was trapped under rubble for nearly three days had possessed a fierce determination to survive, a reflection of the fighting spirit demonstrated by the Diggers at Gallipoli. This is only one example of extreme survival that has overcome tremendous odds. There is no doubt that other Australian individuals will face life and death situations in the future where their endurance will be tested. Those who fight for survival, like the Diggers "give us hope that we who are part of the national story, could also be capable of heroism when heroism is needed." (cited in The Age, 1998, April 25 p.9)
This time last year I was a spectator at the Sydney Olympics and was fortunate enough to have witnessed first hand the Anzac in action. Declared by Juan Antonio Samarach as "the best Olympics ever' (Sydney Olympic Closing Ceremony, 2000) his words aptly sum up what was an achievement of our nation as a whole. In the spirit of Anzac, the thousands of volunteers and of course the athletes united to create the success of the games. Australia held its breath as Australia's competitors such as Cathy Freeman stood to be tested in the same spirit that the Anzacs at Gallipoli had, and like the Diggers her pain, sacrifice and discipline propelled her to greatness.
The Anzac spirit is also reflected by thousands of everyday Australians who have never achieved such recognition but nevertheless have demonstrated the same values of devotion, sacrifice and. heart that became evident through the Anzacs at Gallipoli throughout their life. The people who form groups such as Care Australia, The Salvation Army, Canteen and other smaller charity groups in the local area such as the Women's Health Auxiliary, exhibit the same 'others before self’ heroism that the famous ANZAC legend John Simpson Kirkpatrick had at Gallipoli. Just as Simpson and Duffy had carried wounded men down Monash and Sharpnel Valley to safety, it is the constant desire to help others in need that drives these volunteers to give up so much of their time in the aim creating a better life for those that are less fortunate. The fact that they go about contributing to the lives of others without ever expecting any sort of recognition further accentuates the Anzac spirit that these 'heroes' in their own right behold.
In the words of current Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, "We confirm that the ANZAC tradition permeates our modem life as it permeated earlier generations ... for all that it represents in terms of brave sacrifice, of reckless indifference to danger, of valour under terrible fire and a legacy which has been handed down to subsequent generations" (cited in http://www.anzacday.org.au/history/east_timor/overview.html) torch of the Anzac Spirit will forever bum bright.
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