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The evolution of Anzac Day

Anzac Day is now viewed from so many perspectives, site and event managers need to take this into account if they are to successfully manage the surge in interest as Australia approaches the 100-year anniversary of the Gallipoli landing in 1915, academics say in a new book.

In their book Reflections on ANZAC Day – From One Millennium to the Next co-editors Victoria University's Associate Professor  Anne-Marie Hede and Deakin University's Professor Ruth Rentschler bring together a range of views about Anzac Day, including the New Zealand and Turkish perspectives, to show how this is the case.

"The way Anzac Day is commemorated in Australia, New Zealand and Turkey is evolving," Associate Professor Hede said. "There is a greater diversity in the people who take part, the places they gather and the memories and reflections they bring to the day."

"Over the past few decades the symbolic representation of the Anzac battle has shifted so that it is no longer solely a commemoration of a military engagement – the day now has meaning for people as spectators at sporting events, as families whose ancestors may have served in the armed forces, and in local community gatherings.

"The difficulties people face in travelling to Gallipoli this year because of the air lock down in Europe could present opportunities to hold more events in their home towns."

Professor Rentschler said: "Anzac Day is now an occasion which embraces military sentiments but celebrates our national identity, linking with former enemies as new friends and planning for the future.

"People use Anzac Day to dig deeper and find an experience that touches their soul and seek to get spirituality back into their lives."

Professor Rentschler said for many people the changes, in the celebration of Anzac Day and war sites more generally, would elicit feelings of discontent – "nothing will ever be the same again. For others the changes are exciting, new things are possible," she said.

Themes explored by Victoria University academics in the book:

The Other Anzac Day – at Villers-Bretonneux

VU law lecturer Dr Matt Harvey argues that the Villers-Bretonneux conflict on the Western Front deserves greater attention. Three years after the Gallipoli landing there was a second Anzac Day: the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux on 25 April 1918, in which Australian forces liberated the town and turned back the German surge towards Amiens and Paris. Described as "perhaps the greatest individual feat of the war – the successful counter-attack by night across unknown and difficult ground, at a few hours notice by the Australian soldier", it remains in the shadow of the Gallipoli campaign.  

Contesting the AFL Anzac Day match

Historian Professor Robert Pascoepositions war and its commemoration alongside sport, a theme that was used in the campaign for enlistment in World War One. Pascoe uses a contemporary take on sport and war in his essay, providing unique insights into the key position of sport in Australian society. He looks specifically at the significance of the Anzac Day Australian Rules football match between Collingwood and Essendon and examines the sharply contrasting language and metaphors employed by rival newspapers The Age and the Herald-Sun to describe these modern-day Anzac Day events.

 Anzac Day and Nationalism: The Sacred Place of this 'One Day of the Year' in Contemporary Australia

Dr Leanne White traces views of Anzac Day using images to support her argument. She explores the customs and traditions relating to Anzac Day and Australian nationalism and examines how this sacred day is imagined and intertwined into the Australian national consciousness. Meanings conveyed in contemporary Anzac images in the arts, events, sport and advertising are explored. Official, popular and commercial images of the ANZAC tradition are examined with a view to moving closer to addressing unanswered questions about Australian national identity.

 Attending Anzac Day Events: Lived Experiences in the New Millennium

Associate Professor Anne-Marie Hede examines attendance of young people at Anzac Day commemorative services in New Zealand. Many had mixed emotions: participants indicated that they were proud — to be part of the experience; to be part of the crowd; and of those who had died and survived on the battlefields. On the other hand, participants also indicated that at times during the commemorative services they became angry and saddened when they found out what happened on Anzac Day in 1915. The findings provide insights into the power of attendance at local commemorative services, and demonstrate that if the services held overseas are found to require some form of scaling back in the future, the services at home provide opportunities for meaningful experiences.

Associate Professor Hede (0408 319 395) Professor Pascoe (0418 173 815), Dr Harvey (0417 643 007) and Dr White (0409 363 151) are available for comment. Electronic copies of the book are also available.

Media inquiries: Jim Buckell, A/Senior Media Officer

Marketing and Communications Department, Victoria University

Ph: (03) 9919 4243; mobile: 0400 465 459; email: jim.buckell@vu.edu.au

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