New Zealand High Commission Pretoria, South Africa

2010 ANZAC Day Address by the New Zealand High Commissioner at Diamond Hill Dawn Service

ANZAC Day, Diamond Hill, 2010

Address at the dawn service by the New Zealand High Commissioner, Dr Geoffrey Randal.

Nga mate haere, haere, haere
Tatou te hunga ora, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa

The dead, farewell, farewell, farewell
To us the living, greetings, greetings, greetings to us all.

Here at Diamond Hill we gather each year, in the presence of Australian and New Zealand graves, to remember our dead who have fallen in war.

New Zealanders and Australians gather on this day every year. It is the anniversary of the day in 1915 when soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed on the beaches of Gallipoli. It was a desperate campaign our forebears fought and it was mostly a futile one, except…

Each year the commemoration of ANZAC Day begins with dawn services throughout New Zealand. Then it is Australia’s turn. And so it goes around the globe, wherever we find ourselves.

This year is the 95th anniversary of those original landings. At Gallipoli itself, a short while ago, the commemorations have been led by the Governor General of Australia and the Prime Minister of New Zealand. I’m sure they have had a very large following of Aussies and kiwis, as has been the case in recent decades. (In 1915 Aussies and kiwis were called cornstalks and fernleaves! Well, that’s progress.)

As we commemorate the loss of so many of our men, young men, we acknowledge also the sacrifices borne by Britain, France and India on this same killing field, and as well, the appalling losses of young Turks defending their homeland.

95 years later it is still possible to think that the conception of the Gallipoli campaign was quite clever, but the way it was carried out was clearly terrible, in its steady progress to disaster. This tells us something useful about cleverness and good ideas - a lesson Australians and New Zealanders have learnt forever, it seems.

And from the defeat some positives emerged. These have kept ANZAC Day as the day for our commemorations.

We learnt then, and we remember today, that regardless of the military skills we might possess, it is the human values which can take us beyond our normal selves. There’s no doubt that the soldiers we send to war are, on the whole, ordinary people. Very many from Australia and New Zealand have been volunteers. At Gallipoli they showed, in such horrible circumstances, values of mateship, courage, equality, self-sacrifice and loyalty.

Our respect for them was not extinguished by defeat. Instead, we have drawn on their example for 95 years now.

At Gallipoli too it is said that we, New Zealanders and Australians, understood that we had grown beyond our beginnings as colonies of Britain. A new sense of national identity was coming. Our soldiers left home as British colonial troops. Those who returned came back as New Zealanders and Australians.

And at Gallipoli was born the ‘spirit of ANZAC’. Whatever our differences – and there are plenty – we stand together. The values we recognise, each year on this day, are values we share, us Australians and New Zealanders. We will act together to defend ourselves, our values and our common interests. Our joint commemoration each year is a constant reminder and restatement of that.

At the end of ANZAC Parade in Canberra, down towards the lake, opposite the Australian War Memorial, stands the New Zealand Memorial as a symbol of this spirit. It is formed by two bronze arches, one on each side of the road. These represent the handles of a traditional Maori kete, or flax basket.

The Maori proverb inscribed on the memorial reads

Mau tena kiwai o te kete, maku tenei.

Two of us, each at the handle of the basket, helping to share the load.

Here in South Africa is where the first battles took place where soldiers from New Zealand and Australia fought side by side.

In the New Zealand case, from a total population of 750 000 people, some 6500 men came in support of the British Empire. They were all enthusiastic volunteers. Most returned home safely. Some 71 died in action, 133 of wounds and disease, and 26 accidentally. Some are buried here at Diamond Hill, next to Australians, British and Canadians.

Some 16 500 Australians enlisted. According to the Australian War Memorial, of them 282 died in action or of their wounds; 286 of disease; and 38 accidentally.

The New Zealand that sent these young men from 1899 to 1902 was a British colony, self-governing but a long way from independence. During the South African war Australia was forming as a federation of British colonies. There was still little sense then of the national identity that was to emerge after Gallipoli.

Because of shared aspects of history Australians and New Zealanders were to serve with South Africans in some later wars, especially in North Africa and Italy during World War 2, and in Korea under United Nations auspices. These links were broken as South Africa turned increasingly to apartheid. Australia and New Zealand took a different direction, towards reconciliation with our indigenous peoples and towards building societies of diversity and global connection. This work continues today.

We acknowledge our place in South Africa’s history, and our shared service with South African armed forces. We join with South Africans in commemoration too.

Over time, ANZAC Day has changed. Our commemoration has expanded:
- We remember those who died in military service
- Those who served and survived
- And others affected by war and the commitment to war.

It’s a day for Australians and New Zealanders to pause with our friends and think about our experience in these things, how history has affected our families, how it has shaped our people and our nations.

Our history has meant that war has touched very many of us New Zealanders and Australians. Yet we remain optimistic for ourselves and for our world.

As time passes, as the experience of Gallipoli, of the First and Second World Wars, becomes remote, we find – in both Australia and New Zealand – a greater interest in commemoration. This has become again a day for young people. I say again, because so many of the Australians and New Zealanders who died in war were only ever young.

So, let us remember them. And let us cherish the young of today and their curiosity about our past and their capacity for commemoration without polemics or politics or passing judgement.

No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

Footnote: In 2011 a joint Australia/New Zealand commemorative service was held in Pretoria, due to ANZAC Day coinciding with Easter.  The commemoration will return to Diamond Hill in 2012. 

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