As a result of a global pandemic that has changed the way we live and brought widespread and confronting social and economic impacts, local Anzac Day events have been cancelled, but there are many ways that we can mark and honour the occasion.
This year our commemorations and reflections on ANZAC day will be different, but no less deep. Indeed it provides an opportunity to consider that in times of crisis we can choose to live up to the best in our national character – to be compassionate, to show courage, to respect sacrifice.
As well as remembering Australians who have served and suffered in all conflicts and operations, this year we should recognise those personnel who are supporting the COVID-19 pandemic response and bushfire recovery efforts.
This ANZAC Day we should consider our own local history of brave and selfless service in not dissimilar circumstances more than a hundred years ago. In 1918, despite the grave danger involved every single Army nurse aboard the troopship Wyreema volunteered to provide care to the hundreds of troops and crew from the Spanish flu-stricken troopship Boonah who were landed at Woodman Point Quarantine Station.
Thanks to the courageous service of the 20 nurses selected – 15 of whom contracted the disease, and four of whom died, including one civilian nurse – only 28 of the soldiers treated at Woodman Point succumbed to the Spanish Flu. This was an incredible result, given that the pandemic’s worldwide death toll was around 50 million people, which exceeded the 16 million who were killed during World War I.
So while, we cannot gather together this year, we can join together at a time of profound crisis in our recognition of Australian Defence Force and peacekeeping personnel, and we can remember and honour their example of service.
Suggestions for your own ANZAC Day observance:
- Watch a televised national Dawn Service from the Australian War Memorial, scheduled to commence with a pre-service program at 5am and the national service at 5:30am local time.
- Hold your own private commemoration at your home through initiatives like the RSL’s #lightupthedawn campaign – stand in their driveway, front yard or living room at 6am, following the televised dawn service.
- Look out for veterans in our local community who may be self-isolating at home, by picking up the phone and talking to them, and asking how they are going.