Sacrifice sets our ANZACS apart

April 24, 2014

Image source:

This year Australia will be commemorating 100 years of the ANZACs. As it is the initial Centenary (the centenary will be celebrated from 2014-2018), it is an appropriate point in time to stop and think about what the ANZAC tradition means to Australians and consider why it has been growing as a major maker of who we are as a people.

Over the past 3 years, in Melbourne alone, numbers at the Dawn Service have skyrocketed by 15,000 people (42%). 

The same pattern has occurred across the country.  We now have a ballot to gain access to Gallipoli where it all began. Services in France are also becoming very ‘popular’.

There are different perspectives on this growth. Some cynics see it as a marketing play by the ADF.  Some seem opposed to it because they claim it glorifies war. But for the most part, Australian’s seem to connect deeply with the day and our armed services.  So what are they connecting with?


The Australian War Memorial has a very pragmatic and respectful description.  It acknowledges the gravity of the day, but lacks the emotive perspective.

“ANZAC Day – 25 April – is probably Australia's most important national occasion. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.”

Historically, the Government of the day was looking to gain recognition and build its reputation amongst the nations of the world. What was intended as a bold strike morphed into a stalemate and the deaths of over 8,000 men.  

This sense of Australia growing and playing a greater role in the world is important, but we think it is a secondary driver behind the connection we all have to the mythology.


One hundred years on Australia has changed dramatically, but the ‘digger’s’ values remain entrenched. General David Hurley, Chief of the Australian Defence Force, summed up the underlying meaning of ANZAC Day in four simple words last year in an article he penned for Fairfax.  It is these words which remain at the very heart of the ideals we strive for as a nation.



Mateship &


Across all the literature we have studied in creating our Australian Meaning map, General Hurley’s ideals are repeated time and time again in the myths and stories of our nation over the past 100 years. 

Just think of some of our famous stories – Pat Cash’s win at Wimbledon, for example. Definitely courageous. Definitely endurance. He had given it a few goes. Mateship – for sure. Who will ever forget how he leapt into the stands to embrace his coach and family. Sacrifice? We’ll not as much, at least not overtly.

Interestingly, we feel the most powerful digger ideal is that of sacrifice.

It is this ideal which we believe holds this group of men and women in the highest esteem possible. It is the underlying reason why the ANZACs are on a plane without peer and is at the heart of why we laud their valiant efforts 100 years on.

Our worlds today are for the most part lacking in this key tenant of what the Diggers symbolise. Yes, people still go without, but the narrative of our society these days is freedom of choice in so many areas of life. 

We have easy access to so much of what we want and desire. We can be so dismissive with possessions. We can just click buttons and increasingly have computers do things for us. We don’t have to go and do our shopping if we don’t want to, it can come to us.

In this modern context, ANZAC Day is a chance for Australians to stop and think about how fortunate we are. That for the sacrifice of many, a long time ago, we are afforded lives which do not require sacrifices of great magnitude.  We can think about our families, we can think about our loved ones and our own mortality, but all in the comfort that we don’t have to sacrifice.

In fact it is difficult to find examples of sacrifice in the modern world.

Our swimming team at the moment may not be the force it once was, either in the pool or out, but the swimmers are potentially one other team that has embodied this notion. Their early mornings, the constant ‘following the black line’ narrative, and the early nights required for greatness do tell a story around hard work and sacrifice.

But their sacrifice is at an individual level and mostly for individual gain. Their sacrifice and hard work may obtain them a PB or a medal, and some adulation.  But not indebtedness from the public.

The celebration and remembrance of ANZAC Day is about all of the dimensions General Hurley outlined. Courageousness.  An ability to keep going and persevere when everything seemed lost.  Working together. 

It is the ANZAC’s vulnerability and sheer unimaginable sacrifice, compared with the comfort life affords us today, that makes the ANZAC legend such a powerful force.

Lest we Forget.