The Anzac spirit – or myth, depending on your viewpoint – is experiencing a resurgence among young people, who turned out in force at Sydney’s dawn service on Sunday.
And their presence didn’t go unnoticed.
While some criticise the militarisation of our national history, official guests, organisers and Australia’s most recent Victoria Cross winner Trooper Mark Donaldson, who is leading the traditional April 25 parade through the city, praised today’s youth for embracing the commemorative event.
Trooper Donaldson, a member of the Special Air Service Regiment, says the show in force proved the Anzac spirit is not fading.
“To be honest, I think it is growing and growing in strength,” he told reporters.
“We need to continue that tradition and it needs to be the young people that understand the spirit of the Anzac and for us to be able to continue on and remember those guys that have been before us.”
NSW Returned and Services League president Don Rowe said the resurgence is building each year, something he attributes to
increased education and the internet.
“The young people really want to pay their respects to the diggers,” he told AAP.
“And the weather today was a wonderful indicator that young people are prepared to embrace Anzac Day.”
Corporal Tristan D’Aloia, who attended the dawn service to “pay his respects”, is of the generation Trooper Donaldson and Mr Rowe speak of.
The 23-year-old who served in East Timor for six months in 2008 with the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR) says it’s hard for younger people to appreciate Anzac Day.
“Life is quite easy on us now,” he told AAP.
“But I saw a lot of young people out today so that was good.
“It’s important that we don’t forget, and it’s important to teach kids in school what (Anzac Day) actually means, that it’s not just a public holiday.”
Originally held to mark the anniversary of the troops landing at Gallipoli in 1915, Anzac Day has become a national day of
remembrance for all those who have served in Australia’s armed forces, and the myth grows steadily, helped along by government and the media.
Organisers estimate several thousand people attended the dawn service at Martin Place which was soaked by relentless rain.
NSW Premier Kristina Keneally said it was amazing to see so many Sydneysiders flock to the city, despite the weather, to pay their respects.
“I see no evidence whatsoever that the Anzac spirit is fading,” she told reporters, adding she felt honoured to be a part of the service.
“It is extraordinary and moving for all of us to stand here 95 years later and to continue to remember.”
Geoff Orchard of Sydney and his son William, nine months, were among a handful of people left at the Cenotaph.
He went in honour of his grandfather, a Halifax bomber pilot in WWII.
He’s never worn his grandfather’s medals on Anzac Day, but plans to next year, and hopes his young sons will carry on the tradition when they are old enough.
“As the old guys die off you want to represent them,” he said.