A popular myth says Australia first came of age as a nation in 1915 on the craggy shores of Gallipoli. This myth views a failed military campaign in distant Turkey that resulted in over 35,000 Anzac casualties as the occasion of our ‘becoming a nation’.
However, many Australians do not agree. Many believe that coming of age as a nation is a more complex process involving the entire community.
It is a gradual awareness that unfolds over time and is ongoing. Farms, businesses, creative individuals,
community groups, all contribute to our collective identity and in many respects, Australia is still coming
While the tragedy of Gallipoli should be remembered, the challenge for modern Australia lies in how we
go about this.
Should we revere those original Anzacs only, or can we also learn from their pain and needless sacrifice?
Must the Anzac tradition be exclusively a military style service, or is there an opportunity to explore broader,
more peaceful expressions of our identity?
Need our remorse for the loss of a relative or loved one incline us to follow dutifully in their footsteps, or can it move us in the opposite direction towards a less violent future?
As it’s presently observed, the Anzac tradition is not supported by a significant part of the Australian community
– including many veterans. It is commonly seen as encouraging foreign military service and has little relevance
to many outside the white European community.
If we are to evolve a genuine national identity, then surely it should be one that inspires all Australians.
I believe the Anzac tradition can be part of this evolution by broadening its scope to include all the victims of war – lest we forget that, as humans, we each share more in common than not.
R J Poole, Lismore