Spoiler alert: The writer of this blog spent the first 30 years of his life in England.
That means 30 years of watching Coronation Street. 30 years (just to prolong the myth) of taking a ‘Pommie Shower’. And 30 years of not having a clue what phrases like ‘woop woop’ mean or why anyone in their right minds could even begin to understand Aussie Rules football.
So how can that same person, i.e. yours truly, have any idea why the 25th April, ANZAC Day, holds such a special place in the hearts of the Australian nation?
Truth is, it’s just something I’ve observed since emigrating here, way back in 1990: the unique respect, admiration and pride that Australians unashamedly hold for their country.
I’d see it when my kids and their classmates would belt out ‘Advance Australia Fair’ at their primary school assembly. (Who cares that neither they nor their teachers had a clue what the word ‘girt’ meant?)
I’d see it when the nation stopped to watch an Aboriginal girl in a green and gold onesie win Olympic gold at Sydney.
I’d even see it when a Prime Minister was lauded not only for his political acumen, but for his ability to down a yard of ale in one.
Most of all, though, I’d see it every year in the almost universal respect shown by Australians on ANZAC Day.
I’d see it in the way they would happily leave the warmth of their beds to attend an often very cold Dawn Service.
I’d see it in the mix of age-groups and demographics in attendance: for every ex-service person or besuited dignitary, you’d be just as likely to see young children or people in their sweatpants and Ugg boots.
And I’d hear it – in the 100% silent respect shown as the Last Post is played at the raising of the flag.
This year marks the 105th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings. And until very recently, this year I’d planned on adding to my ANZAC Day experiences by attending a special wreath laying service in Nungarin.
Nungarin, in case you didn’t know, is a small town in the Wheatbelt, situated around 40kms north of Merredin and a 3-hour drive from Perth.
It is also home to the Nungarin Heritage Machinery and Army Museum which is housed in a massive wooden shed that once serviced and stored more than 4,000 army vehicles during World War II.
Given the Wheatbelt’s strong military history, and the unique atmosphere afforded by the Museum itself, it seemed a particularly appropriate place to once again commemorate the contribution of all those who have gallantly served an eternally grateful nation.
Yet now, with concerns over the spread of Coronavirus, and especially with the wellbeing of our ageing veterans in mind, Anzac Day services have been cancelled all around Australia.
We will still remember them. But this year at least, and for everyone’s sake, we will do so from the safety of our homes.