The ANZAC spirit is not something that Australians consciously celebrate, it is embedded within us, it is who we are. The ANZAC spirit is palpable every day, from the playground, to volunteer firefighters, to the ordinary person next door. But it was the devastation which occurred in Bali which showed that the modern Australian spirit embodies the ideals born on the shores of Gallipoli- we, as a nation, rally together, we are courageous, we value mateship and loyalty, and together as a nation we have shown we can emerge from a crisis stronger than we were when we went into it.
Australia has always struggled to find its true identity and throughout its history a myriad of myths have been promulgated as to what it is to be Australian. From Dorothy MacKellerís "I Love a Sunburnt Country" to Normís "Life Be In It" advertising campaign, there has been a continual search to distill the Australian identity. However, it is the ANZAC spirit that stands proudly unrivalled as the essence of the way that we see ourselves. It was on the bloodied shores of the Aegean Sea that this spirit, and our nationís identity was born. The selflessness, mateship, courage and dedication demonstrated by a group of soldiers fighting on behalf of the British Empire on the shores of Gallipoli can be witnessed in the values, beliefs and attitudes of Australians today. These values have once again made themselves evident, after the Bali bombings on October 12. The attacks were a horrific nightmare, but what happened afterwards was not. Australians from all over the country have volunteered to do what ever they can, demonstrating the ANZAC spirit.
As a young child growing up in the "lucky country", I had been brought up to respect these values, however, to be truthful, I never really made, nor understood, the connection between such nationalistic values and the history of the ANZAC spirit. Every year since I started school, there has been a school assembly on April 25 but I do not remember these assemblies well, for I have been an uninformed observer. I knew that we were remembering the soldiers who died for their country, yet I could not comprehend the importance or relevance of what those heroic soldiers had achieved, for all of us.
As I grow older, my appreciation for past generations has grown, and in my teenage years, I am beginning to understand the sacrifices that have been made to shape the Australian way of life, which I have previously taken for granted. But it was during the later half of 2002, the events in Bali on October 12 that really shattered my innocent view of the world. My previous understandings of the reality and significance of war were brutally tested and my perception of what human nature is capable of changed forever. War became a part of the realm of possibility for me, not something exclusive to movies.
October 12 will be etched in the minds of ordinary Australians like me forever more, but it was these same events that made me see just what was meant by the ANZAC spirit. Nearly 100 Australians were killed in the blasts, [Pennells, Steve. (2002), "Bali Salute", The West Australian, Thur December 12, (p 1)] and many more were hurt, but many also received their worst injuries from going back to help others. All over Australia, people did anything they could to help. Schools raised hundreds of dollars all over the country. Charities even had to ask people to stop donating things, because they were so overwhelmed by the amount of donations. [Guantlett, Kate. (2002), "Australians Rally In Support of Victims", The West Australian, Thur October 17, (p 6)]. Hundreds of volunteers rushed to the victimsí aid, hoping to be able to help at least one person. This was a traumatic experience for the world especially Australians. However, as John Howard said, "the Australian spirit has not been broken. The Australian spirit will remain strong and free and tolerant." [Howard, John. (2002), "Your Say", The West Australian, Sat October 19, (p 11)] Our nation has shown compassion and a desire to help, and this disposition epitomises the evolution of the ANZAC spirit on Australian society, demonstrating how it has shaped our nationís actions and values today.
One of the most admirable ANZAC qualities is that of courage. The famous John Simpson Kirkpatrick (Simpson) is the epitome of this trait. He "went up and down the valleys of Gallipoli, rescuing the wounded". [Hillman, Robert. (2001), World War I, Binara Publishing Pty Ltd, Melbourne: Andrews, Michael. (2000), The Anzac Spirit, Grolier Books Australia, New South Wales]. Simpson, without regard for the dangers surrounding him only thought of rescuing his comrades. 87 years later, following the bombings in Bali, a young Perth man, Peter Hughes, resembles Simpson. Peter Hughes received the worst of his injuries when he returned to Paddyís Bar to help two women who were on fire. [Adolph, Fiona. (2002), "Mates Through It All", The Sunday Times, Sun December 6, (p 3)] Like Simpson, Hughes had no fear for his own well-being and went straight into the carnage to help others. The site was littered with body parts, while the screams of agony and terror filled the air. It was a scene from hell. To willing re-enter such an abhorrent site of bloodshed took great courage. A month, later, he was still in pain from his injuries. We need look no further than the selflessness and bravery of Peter Hughes and the hundreds like him in the aftermath of the Bali bombings to see the ANZAC spirit is truly alive and well.
Mateship is what helped the soldiers in Gallipoli become united. Without it, they would have fallen apart, would have had no support or encouragement other than the commands of their officers. Likewise, the Kingsley Football Club team did everything to find their teammates who disappeared after the Bali bombings. The initial group of twenty, reduced to eleven, refused to leave without their mates- not even their families could convince them to come home. As Brad McIlroy said, "we canít leave our mates". The team went to Bali as "brothers in arms" and that is how they stayed. [Barrass, Tony. (2002), "Brothers In Arms Refuse To Split Ranks", The West Australian, Tues October 15, (p 3)]. Mateship develops from unfailing loyalty, and it manifests when a person tries to do as much as possible for their friends. Mateship is what the Kingsley footballers have unashamedly demonstrated throughout the whole Bali tragedy.
Simpson was dedicated to saving his fellow compatriots. Without hesitation he risked his life for others. He showed the quintessence of mateship and selflessness. Gillian Coorey is a modern-day Simpson, who dedicated herself to help the victims of the Bali bombings and their families. She was dubbed "Kutaís Florence Nightingale" ["Volunteer is Kutaís Florence Nightingale", The West Australian, (2002), Tues October 15, (p 12)]. She was one of many volunteers who tried to identify bodies, and counsel the families and friends of victims. This was an extremely strenuous job. She had to examine bodies mutilated beyond recognition. As soon as she heard of the attacks, she knew that she had to go. Yet again, this is a realistic demonstration of the quality of dedication, a great part of the ANZAC spirit, depicted within the Australians affected by the Bali atrocities.
The ANZAC spirit lives on in many Australians today, as the spirit has become who and what we are. We commemorate the ANZAC spirit not only on April 25, when we officially recognise the spirit and those who died for it, but through our actions in times of adversity such as our responses to the Bali bombings. The ANZAC spirit can never be broken, it can never die- it can only grow stronger. It is what makes us unique. It makes us Australian!!
"Volunteer is Kutaís Florence Nightingale", The West Australian, (2002), Tues October 15, (p 12)
Adolph, Fiona. (2002), "Mates Through It All", The Sunday Times, Sun December 6, (p 3)
Barrass, Tony. (2002), "Brothers In Arms Refuse To Split Ranks", The West Australian, Tues October 15, (p 3)
Guantlett, Kate. (2002), "Australians Rally In Support of Victims", The West Australian, Thur October 17, (p 6)
Howard, John. (2002), "Your Say", The West Australian, Sat October 19, (p 11)
Pennells, Steve. (2002), "Bali Salute", The West Australian, Thur December 12, (p 1)
Andrews, Michael. (2000), The Anzac Spirit, Grolier Books Australia, New South Wales
Hillman, Robert. (2001), World War I, Binara Publishing Pty Ltd, Melbourne
Pilinger, Jo. (1999), ANZAC A Day To Remember, Australia War Memorial, Canberra.
The Spirit of ANZAC, (2000) Ryebuck Media Pty Ltd, Victoria.
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