‘There are none dead but live unto God.’ (1) Padre, May 5, 1915, Egypt. This is an emphatic declaration conveying the dominance of the spirit of those Australians who gave their lives to their country, and its presence in society today.
How does one generalize the spirit of thousands of courageous Australians who gave everything for their country? How can we compare this to a generation of freedom and prosperity? The answer can be found within the core of Australian society. Within every individual, that plays a part in the Australian identity. Within the ancestors of those who gave everything, to give today’s society freedom and life.
The ANZAC spirit that the world witnessed on the 25th of April 1915, and in the following years of hardship and suffering, continues to play a definitive part in the Australian identity. When hardship reigns, and innocent people suffer, or when personal goals seem impossible, it is this spirit that holds the key to success. Today, it seems incomprehensible to be seventeen years old, voluntarily travelling to Gallipoli, Turkey, and being ambushed by thousands of enemy soldiers.
As you watch your mates fall down beside you, during the traverse of muddy terrain, and you urge your aching muscles to conquer each ascent, you need something inside you that suppresses the fear and stops you turning back. Something that keeps you strong when you lose all hope, and gives you the courage to continue to fight valiantly for your country. Private. T. Oliver, 7th Battalion, summed up the ANZAC pride and courage with a compassion that could only be Australian. ‘Don’t have any fear for me, I am ready for whatever comes & am quite prepared to die for my king and country and the dear ones left behind.’ (1)
This is the spirit that nurtures the courage, mateship, honour, and patriotism felt by every one of the 8,700 ANZACS who did not return home. (1) Those men who loved their country enough, to volunteer to risk their lives for the future of Australia. This is the spirit that Australians call upon, when the path to success is not easy, or when society demands unity and support.
What defines an ordinary person? What characteristics deem something extraordinary? Is it the ANZAC values of courage, mateship, and patriotism, or is it something else? The ANZAC’s who fought at Gallipoli were no different to the youth of today. They were young, enthusiastic, and determined to make the most out of life. They came from ordinary households, went to school, and laughed with friends.
War caused them to be drawn into a world of terror and pain such as they had never dreamt of. When forced to face peril and tragedy, these young men stood strong and proud. They willingly gave up everything to fight for the Australian people. That is what sets these young men apart from so many others, and what earned these ordinary young Australians, the social idolatry they deserve.
There is no part of Australian society today that is comparable to the trench conditions at Gallipoli. 77% of soldiers were emaciated, 78% suffered diarrhoea, 74% suffered shortness of breath, and 64% suffered indolent ulcers of the skin. These common conditions all contributed to the severe illness and stress that resulted from military combat. (1)
However, when orders came through to advance, the ANZAC spirit shone through, and they forgot their sufferings. The Australians knew how minute their chances were, but their pride in their country was reason enough to keep going. R.M. Carr (Lone Pine), sums up this spirit with his words. ‘We knew we hadn’t a ghost of a chance but we charged.’ And the words of Australian Cliff Pinook, ‘They knew the risk before going out as it was the maddest idea to attempt it, and there was not a single shirker.’ (1)
Eighty-eight years ago, this spirit was first felt among Australians. In 2001, this spirit was seen again in eighty-eight Australians. The eighty-eight innocent Australians who perished in a senseless act of terror in Bali. (8) Today, they can be seen as eighty-eight symbols of the Australian courage. One for every year, that has passed with the ANZAC spirit a significant feature of Australian society. It is this spirit the survivors called upon, when their lives were torn apart, and they were left vulnerable and weak.
Australians came together like they did eighty-eight years before, handing unimaginable kindness to fellow citizens. Coming together as one to support their fellow Australians. It is this spirit that gave the ANZAC’s so much of the same strength that Australians found in 2001, when they found themselves in a situation of inconceivable suffering. Although conditions of warfare are unlike anything else, it is this same ANZAC spirit that we can find in everyday Australians today, who give everything to their dreams and battles, and keep the ANZAC spirit alive.
Just like the seven ANZACs whose courageous dedication has been recognised with a Victoria Cross (2), there are numerous examples in today’s society of acts of individual and unique courage and strength that keep the ANZAC spirit strong. One such example is that of Australian war hero, Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop (1907-1993). Whilst serving as a surgeon in Indonesia, Dunlop was captured, and taken to Thailand, where Australian prisoners were building a railway line to Burma in deadly heat and horrific conditions.
Men were dying of hunger, overwork and disease. Dunlop argued with guards to spare lives, searched for extra food for prisoners, and worked extraordinary hours treating them, while ignoring his own injuries, sickness and ulcerated feet. ‘I was determined to show them that Australians were tough’-Weary Dunlop. (4, 5, 6 & 7) This unique courage and spirit, continues to live in Australians today, and is the spirit that saved the lives of dozens of Australians.
It is not only in times of suffering that the ANZAC spirit is evident in Australian society. The 2000 Olympic Games, which were declared by the International Olympic Committee President, Juan Antonio Samaranch as ‘The Best Olympic Games Ever,’ (6) also highlight the Australian spirit. Everyday Australians gave their time and enthusiasm to their country, and came together as one to achieve a remarkable feat. The thousands of volunteers who participated, and the millions of viewers across the country who supported the Games, and Australia’s representatives clearly displays the ANZAC spirit, and the pride and nationalism it brings to Australians.
Australia today is a proud and unified nation, made up of diverse cultures and ethnic backgrounds. However, the spirit and courage that Australians find within themselves, the inner strength that allows them to give everything for others, and the unbelievable commitment Australians have to themselves, each other, and their country, comes from the spirit that was first shown so many years ago by the ANZAC’s. This spirit will allow Australians to unify in times of prosperity and laughter, as well as triumph over adversity. The ANZAC spirit has been an integral part of Australian society for eighty-eight years, and will continue to define, support, unify and shape single Australian today, and in the future.
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