On the centenary of the first Anzac landing at Gallipoli, I felt I just needed to say something about this once-in-a-lifetime event and what it means to me.
As the author and illustrator of Anzac Ted, I have had both the privilege and honour to be invited to numerous schools and preschools in the lead up to 25 April and speak to hundreds of children and teachers about my book. And it has been an incredibly moving and eye-opening experience for me.
I have sat beside Australian war veterans bearing a weighty array of service medals on their breast pockets. I have had hundreds of children listen to me speak and then ask countless questions prompted by my book. I have watched in breathless silence as wreaths were laid, songs from a world long past were sung and tales of our first Anzacs were told.
But over and above all, I have been struck by the depth of respect, pride and awe – both here and overseas – which has been woven into the very fabric of our lives for those who have gone before and sacrificed so much.
And this is not restricted to our soldiers but to their families as well who – in many respects – may have suffered just as much as their fathers, husbands, brothers and sons have. After all, they were left behind, not knowing the fate of their loved ones and yet they found the courage and strength to roll up their sleeves, lift up their chins and keep the home fires burning.
As an Australian who has inherited the legacy of the sacrifice of these men and women, both past and present, I am truly grateful. I have always considered myself lucky to live in The Lucky Country, but only now am I beginning to understand what that really means.
The 100 Anzac Commemoration has inspired a deeply moving and patriotic Australian spirit which has surpassed anything I have ever witnessed. People have come together, bound by gratitude and respect for our troops and their families. And while every Anzac Day is special, perhaps this one is more so because it has kindled the knowledge that not only are we tied indelibly to each other through our own unique history – but that we are seeing history in the making.
So, long may the Anzac legacy continue to strengthen us as a united and grateful nation. Long may we acknowledge the terrible costs of war and of defending our hard fought democracy. Long may we continue to pursue peace and in so doing, acknowledge those men and women who are prepared to defend that pursuit on our behalf.
In the words of renowned WW1 journalist Charles Bean: “They gave their shining youth and raised, thereby, valour’s monument which cannot die.”
Lest we forget.