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After a year off, Australians laud Anzac spirit at dawn services across the country

Australians have gathered across the country in the chilly dawn to mark Anzac Day at public ceremonies for the first time since 2019.

Last year Anzac Day was marked by televised services only and no marches for the first time in more than a century as the COVID-19 pandemic kept people indoors.

Services and marches were back with limited crowds in most parts of the country.

Only services in Western Australia’s Perth and Peel regions have been cancelled after a hotel quarantine outbreak led to community virus transmission and the imposition of a three-day lockdown.

Sunday marks the 106th anniversary of the landings at Gallipoli, a campaign which ultimately cost more than 8,700 Australian lives.

Like last year, many Australians paid tribute at home by standing at the end of their driveways at dawn, many with a candle and radio or app for a synchronised playing of the Last Post.

The Australian War Memorial received approval from health authorities to hold the traditional dawn service and national ceremony, with 3,000 pre-registered ticket holders able to attend the dawn service and 4,200 the national ceremony in Canberra.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the dawn service at the Australian War Memorial that the nation faced a defining moment 12 months ago.

“A moment of uncertainty and danger, when the future seems so uncertain, masked by fog,” he said.

“We could not gather, but we held candles in driveways and on balconies and we played the Last Post on radios and iPhones as some, especially in our west, will do again today.

“And together we called on our past to light up the dawn, and in doing so, we rediscovered a deep truth about who we are – our strength is found in each other,” the prime minister added.

“When we are threatened, when our peace and our safety and our security are imperilled, in these moments our differences fade away.”

The Australian War Memorial during the Anzac Day Dawn Service at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, 25 April 2021.

The Australian War Memorial during the Anzac Day Dawn Service at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, 25 April 2021.


Mr Morrison acknowledged the service came as Australia prepared to withdraw its last troops from Afghanistan.

“It has been our longest war. The world is safer from the threat of terrorism than when the Twin Towers were felled almost 20 years ago, but we remain vigilant. However, this has come at a great cost.”

Australia lost 41 Australian Defence Force members in Afghanistan out of the more than 39,000 who served.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese, who attended a dawn service in his Sydney electorate in Balmain, said it was a difficult time for current and former service personnel with the release of the Brereton report into alleged Afghan war crimes, the announcement of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, and pending royal commission into veterans’ suicide.

“This is why it is important this Anzac Day to show our respect for all those who serve, but particularly the current generation of men and women who keep us safe in an increasingly challenging world,” he said in a statement.

In Canberra, Australian Army officer Josh attended the dawn service at the War Memorial with his father Chris, who also served in the army for 45 years.

Josh said it was “special” for families to mark Anzac Day together this year after services were canned in 2020 due to the pandemic.

“It’s was pretty difficult last year to have a bit more of a constrained time, but this year is really special to be able to spend it with my Dad down here in Canberra,” he told SBS News.

“Taking that time to reflect is really important to me because it’s a lot of people that have made a significant sacrifice and I also see everyone else come along to honour that sacrifice.”

Chris said his thoughts were with his grandfather.

“Immediately my thoughts go back to grandad … and those who are lost.”

“It’s tremendously encouraging to see people here this morning and all around Australia who pause very deliberately to remember the sacrifice of those who have before us and for those who have served it becomes pretty personal as well. “

Chris (L) served in the Australian Army for 45 years, with his son Josh (R), who is currently serving.

Josh told SBS News it was special for families to mark Anzac Day together this year after services were canned in 2020 due to COVID-19.

Tom Stayner, SBS News

Large Anzac Day services overseas were cancelled, including Australian and New Zealand-led services in Turkey and Australian services in France.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton said in a statement on Sunday that the manner of commemoration was less important than the act of doing so.

“In remembering the original Anzacs – and those that followed them – we not only recall their deeds, but also recognise the best qualities that defined them. Qualities which represent the highest standard for the Australian character and the society that we desire to live in,” Mr Dutton said.

Mr Dutton also paid tribute to all past and current Australians who have served in the military, saying they had “fought to end evil and topple tyranny”, with many returning home physically or mentally scarred.

Chief of Defence Angus Campbell said current members of the Australian Defence Force have a lot to be proud of.

“Every day I see our people humbly carry out their duty with excellence and initiative, and display great mateship. This is the essence of the Anzac Spirit,” he said.

“We remember and honour those who went before us from the Gallipoli landing in 1915 through to the campaigns and operations of today.”

Governor-General David Hurley and Mrs Hurley are spending Anzac Day in the NT, attending the Darwin dawn service before travelling to Katherine.

Anzac Day 2021 marks major milestones for all three branches of Australia’s armed services.

The RAAF celebrates 100 years of service and the Royal Australian Navy, 110 years since it was granted the ‘Royal’ title by His Majesty King George V. The Australian Army is recognising the two million Australians who have served, and continue to, under the Rising Sun Badge for the past 120 years.

“Our armed services have loyally and courageously defended our nation for more than 100 years and I encourage all Australians to place our servicemen and women – past and present – at the front of our thoughts this ANZAC Day,” RSL national president Greg Melick said.

The RSL acknowledged some people still felt uncomfortable in crowd situations and plans to stream a digital dawn service at 6am through lightupthedawn.com.au

“Regardless of how Australians choose to mark ANZAC Day, the most important thing is to pause and reflect on those who served and those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the nation,” Mr Melick said.

Fallen soldiers remembered at Gallipoli

While the Australian and New Zealand-led Anzac Day services did not go ahead in Turkey, a small group gathered on Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula ahead of Anzac Day to remember soldiers who died during World War I.

Soldiers from Great Britain, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, India, Newfoundland, South Africa and France fought and died during the international operation that started with landings on the peninsula on 25 April 1915.

So did Ottoman soldiers who fought to protect their homeland, here, the Reverend Patrick Irwin said at the memorial site of Cape Helles.

A view of Anzac Cove cemetery, on the site of the World War I landing of the ANZACs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) in Canakkale, Turkey.

The memorials in Turkey were kept small due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


The Helles Memorial is a Commonwealth battle memorial for the whole Gallipoli Campaign, as well as site to remember the servicemen with no known grave.

The British ambassador to Turkey, Sir Dominic Chilcott, gave the welcoming address on Saturday.

Turkey and France held separate remembrance ceremonies for their fallen soldiers. All memorial events were kept small this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A small dawn ceremony will be held in Turkey.

During the Gallipoli Campaign, Allied forces aimed to take control of the peninsula to weaken the Ottoman Empire.

The campaign failed, and the Allies withdrew after eight months of ground fighting and some 250,000 casualties on both sides.

The Ottoman victory did not prevent the end of the Ottoman Empire but propelled Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a commander at Gallipoli, to lead Turkey’s war for independence.

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