Anzac Day, 25 April, is one of Australia’s most important national occasions. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.

ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The soldiers in those forces quickly became known as Anzacs, and the pride they took in that name endures to this day.1

In 1916 the first Anzac Day commemorations were held on 25 April. The day was marked by a wide variety of ceremonies and services across Australia, a march through London, and a sports day in the Australian camp in Egypt. In London more than 2,000 Australian and New Zealand troops marched through the streets; a London newspaper headline dubbed them “the knights of Gallipoli”. Marches were held all over Australia; in the Sydney march convoys of cars carried soldiers wounded on Gallipoli and their nurses. For the remaining years of the war Anzac Day was used as an occasion for patriotic rallies and recruiting campaigns, and parades of serving members of the AIF were held in most cities.1

During the 1920s Anzac Day became established as a national day of commemoration for the more than 60,000 Australians who had died during the war. In 1927, for the first time, every state observed some form of public holiday on Anzac Day. By the mid-1930s all the rituals we now associate with the day – dawn vigils, marches, memorial services, reunions, two-up games – were firmly established as part of Anzac Day culture.

Later, Anzac Day also served to commemorate the lives of Australians who died in the Second World War, and in subsequent years the meaning of the day has been further broadened to include those who lost their lives in all the military and peacekeeping operations in which Australia has been involved.

In these ways, Anzac Day is a time at which Australians reflect on the many different meanings of war. 1

The countless times of fighting hard ( some for good and worthy causes others not) are etched in the history books but this is not the time nor place to assess the value of these fights. What I have given you today is a poem Fighting Hard by one of Australia's best-known poets Henry Lawson. It helps set the context for the passion and patriotism that spurred the Australian and New Zealand forces to fight for the freedom that so defined them. And to this day we hold dear that freedom that so many gave their lives to protect.

Fighting Hard2
Rolling out to fight for England, singing songs across the sea;
Rolling North to fight for England, and to fight for you and me.
Fighting hard for France and England, where the storms of Death are hurled;
Fighting hard for Australasia and the honour of the World!
Fighting hard.
Fighting hard for Sunny Queensland fighting for Bananaland,
Fighting hard for West Australia, and the mulga and the sand;
Fighting hard for Plain and Wool-Track, and the haze of western heat
Fighting hard for South Australia and the bronze of Farrar’s Wheat!
Fighting hard.

Fighting hard for fair Victoria, and the mountain and the glen;
(And the Memory of Eureka there were other tyrants then),
For the glorious Gippsland forests and the World’s great Singing Star
For the irrigation channels where the cabbage gardens are
Fighting hard.

Fighting hard for gale and earthquake, and the wind-swept ports between;
For the wild flax and manuka and the terraced hills of green.
Fighting hard for wooden homesteads, where the mighty kauris stand
Fighting hard for fern and tussock! Fighting hard for Maoriland!
Fighting hard.

Fighting hard for little Tassy, where the apple orchards grow;
(And the Northern Territory just to give the place a show),
Fighting hard for Home and Empire, while the Commonwealth prevails
And, in spite of all her blunders, dying hard for New South Wales.
Dying hard.

Fighting for the Pride of Old Folk, and the people that you know;
And the girl you left behind you (ah! the time is passing slow).
For the proud tears of a sister! come you back, or never come!
And the weary Elder Brother, looking after things at home
Fighting Hard!
You Lucky Devils!
Fighting hard.

Henry Lawson

  1. Australian War Memorial site. Read the full story behind Anzac Day.
  2. poetryverse.com