ANZAC Day – 2009

PICT7169 It’s ANZAC Day today. This day is Australia’s (and New Zealand’s) main day for remembering the sacrifice and contribution Australian and New Zealand servicemen and women in particular made to preserve and protect our way of life, our freedoms and our belief in the equality and mateship of us, one and all. Like my earlier post about Tom the Junior woodchopper at the Easter Show, today is a day that with very little effort you can hear and feel the Australian spirit.

We went into the ANZAC Day March in Sydney today. I was thinking of heading in to the Dawn Service at the Cenotaph as well but didn’t quite make it for that.

I defy anyone to stand at the March, watching the old Diggers, sailors and airmen marching past, and not have a lump in the throat, or at least moist eyes. Such pride still from these folks, and indeed, such kindness and gentleness together. One or two show a little of the larrikin still, in the way they walk or wave or some of the things they say. There were those who were recognised as brave, with Distinguished Service Medals and such, but most were just ordinary blokes who were asked to do extraordinary things and who just did them.

You can see the mateship still, you can feel the mateship, it is palpable. The sacrifice of these people, the loss of part of their life, their youth – in many cases, their life. Most of these folks lost the part of their life that I enjoyed, they lost the fun of being a young bloke. But also it is important to remember what they achieved. PICT7282

They gave us the feeling we have as a nation today – they gave us our “can-do” attitude. No matter how hard the task, no matter how tough the challenge, we can rise to meet it. They gave us our freedom, and stood tall and proud, drawing a line in the sand that said “this is who we are, this is what we believe, cross this line at your peril”. The diggers, the cavalry, the seamen and the airmen, the nurses and the supporting staff, they all contributed so much to what we are today.

It is impossible to hear a pipe band and not feel the goose-bumps, the shiver down the back. Hear the pipes and watch the chests of all around swell – such pride, such strength, such a debt owed.

Vale Pop.

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them.

This is Australia

We were at the Royal Easter Show on Sunday and we went in to see the wood chopping. What is an Australian show without the big blokes in singlets having at blocks of wood with axe and saw?

On the way into the show I saw a few young fellows walking around using an Australian flag as a kind of dress or cape on top of the jeans and t-shirt – maybe trying to look or feel Aussie, I can’t help but think back to some of the social problems on Australia Day and at other times in our recent past.

However, to sum up what is Australia, there was the junior underhand wood chop handicap about to start. The young blokes lined up with their axes and the count started ((In the handicap, the number of seconds from the start are counted off and each competitor starts a different number of seconds in)). The race was exciting but what was truly magnificent was young Tom.

Tom was kind of smaller than the other boys and all the other boys had finished when Tom was still cutting. Watching, we could see the axe getting heavier and heavier as Tom tried to complete the cutting of the log. Ten seconds passed, then another ten, then another ten. Tom was tiring, we could all see that but he would not quit. The other boys all moved up to stand around Tom and his mentor and they were all encouraging Tom. The crowd was cheering Tom on and Tom kept hitting that log with his axe, then wrenching the axe free.

Tom finished to a big cheer from the crowd and from the other competitors. He finished maybe 2 minutes after that last of the other boys. Tom, however, and his competitors as well as the audience, all showed the Australian spirit, all showed what it is to be Australian.

Tom was not going to quit – he just had to keep going until he finished, no matter how far behind the other boys he finished.

Tom’s competitors, all finished and tired from their own efforts, took the time to encourage a fellow competitor, to urge him on and to help bring him home rather than just sit and relax.

Tom’s mentor kept encouraging him positively, encouraging him to continue and not to quit.

The audience kept encouraging Tom, willing him to cut through that log.

This then is what Australia has always been about – about being the best you can be and being appreciated for that effort. It is a great example of the spirit of Australia and reflects more the country, the philosophy and the oneness with Australia than walking around wearing an Australian flag does.

Well done Tom, his mentor, the competitors and the audience – I think that was the proudest I have been as an Australian, especially with my partner there and me able to say “this is what Australia is all about”.