What is Anzac Day?

Newly arrived migrants might be wondering what Anzac Day is all about? What is the significance of Anzac Day? Why is it a holiday?

For Australians, Anzac Day is sacred – a day of remembrance for all those servicemen and servicewomen who have fought for their country. ANZAC stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Anzac Day is celebrated on 25 April every year. It is a very important national occasion because it marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War (1914-1918) at Gallipoli, Turkey.

Even though, the Anzac forces did not achieve victory, it left a powerful legacy of the “Anzac legend”. Today, we commemorate all those service people who lost their lives in the service of our country through military and peacekeeping missions.

Anzac Day begins with dawn vigils at memorials, including at Gallipoli in Turkey. In Australia, this is usually followed by marches in cities and towns by former servicemen and women. You will also notice relatives, including young people, marching with pride while wearing the war medals of their ancestors.

I encourage all migrants to watch one of these parades as it makes us realise the bravery and sacrifice our service people have made for this country which we have chosen to call home.

There are several rituals associated with Anzac Day:

  • Anzac biscuits – significant because these dry biscuits were sent to the soldiers back in World War I.
  • Rosemary sprigs – which we wear on our shirts or lapels because it signifies ‘remembrance’.
  • Poppies – also worn as a remembrance. Poppies tend to grow where the earth has been disturbed so you will see field poppies growing along various battlefields of Europe.
  • Two-up – a game of chance using two coins which was played by the soldiers to help pass the time during the great wars.Many migrants would be aware of RSL Clubs ‘Returned Services League’ Clubs which are all over the country as a place where returned servicemen and servicewomen can share comradeship and reflect on their experiences.Have you wondered why, at 6:00 pm daily, everyone in the RSL Club observes a minute of silence while the ‘The Last Post’ is played? This is a mark of respect acknowledging the end of the day (originally signifying the end of the day at battle) and remembering all those service people who lost their lives. The phrase ‘Lest we forget’ is often used to remind us to remember the sacrifices these people made.

Every migrant should visit the Australian War Memorial in Canberra to understand the significance of the ‘Anzac tradition’. I have been there myself and have attended several Anzac Day marches to commemorate our former servicemen and women and to acknowledge those who are still in active service today around the world.

If you would like to know more about the Anzacs, go to Anzac Day tradition.

Soraya Raju is the CEO and founder of Migrate Success. She is a cultural integration expert and has developed the LAB program© – LOOK, ACT, BELONG – which covers workplace etiquette, language and cultural integration for professionals and skilled migrants.

Acknowledgement: Ellie Griffith,17 Dec 2016

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