Lest we forget the ‘NZ’ in ANZAC
An ANZAC Requiem will be played for the first time on 25 April 2015 as part of South Australia's contribution to the centenary of the Gallipoli landings.
Shortly before retiring as Premier last year, I approved a special allocation of $100,000 to enable the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra to commission a major orchestral and choral work to commemorate the ANZAC legend for the centenary.
I hope New Zealand will also contribute to this commission to enable orchestras on both sides of the Tasman to premiere the work 3 years from today.
While there will be many events and projects to mark the centenary around Australia, in New Zealand, and at Gallipoli, I am sure the ANZAC Requiem will become an enduring hymn or anthem of sacrifice for the next hundred years and beyond. I hope one day it will be played at ANZAC Cove before dawn on April 25.
The significance of ANZAC is enshrined in the souls of both Australians and New Zealanders. It's in our DNA.
ANZAC Day services are our way of expressing both reverence and gratitude. Each year the Dawn Service marks the everlasting companionship between the living and the dead. Our handshake across the void.
The story of ANZAC seared a sense of identity and nationhood in both young countries. It also forged a bond between Australia and New Zealand which is unique, far deeper than any pact, alliance or treaty could create.
Recently in an extraordinary speech in Washington, former NZ Prime Minister Mike Moore spoke of our shared history in conflicts in so many corners of the globe; in battles, in war, in peacekeeping and peacemaking. He said crises and hardship ‘don't just build character, they reveal character.’
This partnership started long before Gallipoli; in the Sudan in 1885, and in the Boer War where Australia sent 16,175 troops and New Zealand 6,495, with Maori and Pakeha serving alongside each other. During World War One a staggering 42% of New Zealand men between the ages of 19 and 45 served, with a casualty rate of 58%. It was a similar story in Australia. According to the Australian War Memorial, 416,809 Australians enlisted; of which more than 60,000 were killed, 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner. Illness was pandemic.
Ambassador Moore pointed out that in World War Two, where both nations again made a massive contribution often far from their shores, New Zealand had a larger percentage of men in uniform and a higher percentage of casualties than any allied nation except the Soviet Union. Later this year at the 70th anniversary of the Battle of El Alamein, we will again remember this alliance of honour. In October, the desert rat will again take its place alongside the kangaroo and the kiwi.
Both nations have since fought and worked side by side in theatres as diverse as Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Bougainville, Cyprus, Malaya, the Sinai, Timor-Leste, Iraq, the Solomons, Afghanistan and many others.
Despite our distance from so many of these conflicts our shared values mean that neutrality in the face of evil or suffering has almost always seemed a cop out. We are not isolationists. We are good citizens. We pay our dues in a difficult world.
Even though the ties that bind us are indestructible, we must never take for granted, let alone forget, the ‘NZ’ in ANZAC. A brotherhood on the beach at Gallipoli made us family. A ‘ditch’ separates us physically but despite all the chiacking and sibling rivalry in sport, we both know who we’d rather have in the trench beside us.
The Hon Mike Rann CNZM, former Premier of South Australia has both Australian and New Zealand citizenship. He is a Visiting Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Political Studies at The University of Auckland.
He is presenting a public seminar on Policy Leadership at The University of Auckland on May 3. See event details.