The pre-dawn light was just starting to come through the lounge room window when I awoke. I had slept on the sofa at my father-in-laws house in Tea Gardens where we were visiting. I arose, and prepared for a lovely dawn on the river after the huge storms in the previous week.
Outside, in the normally quiet street there was almost a traffic jam, and throngs were walking along the esplanade to the local ANZAC Park. It is a hundred years since the failed World War I invasion at Gallipoli, and the Dawn Service to commemorate, is a matter of national significance.
I left the house with my camera pack and tripod walking in the opposite direction to the human tide. As a small boy my mother had once taken me to an ANZAC Day Parade in Melbourne during the 1960s, yet she refused to join the Returned Services League (RSL), because they and the nation would not recognise my father’s service in the Dutch resistance against the occupation of Holland in World War II.
Alone on a dock, in the quiet of dawn, from down the river I could hear the strains of the Last Post, my mother’s favourite hymn Abide with Me, and the Ode of Remembrance. Even though I miss my parents, I know that they will no longer be wearied by age, respected their silence on the horrors of war, and solidarity for each other.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the Auburn Gallipoli Mosque. It had been built by working class Turkish immigrants, and we were welcomed as part of a professional development course on Understanding Islam. It is arguable that much of the unrest in the Middle East today can be traced back to World War I, and the impact of colonialism. We were made welcome at the mosque, observed afternoon prayers, and afterwards I made some photos with permission. This fellow was late for prayers, but still undertook his devotions.
Prayers were first held in a nearby house but as the community grew it bought neighbouring property, and eventually the mosque was built. It is a landmark that travellers on the western suburbs railway line pass each day. The interior was painted by artists brought temporarily to Australia by the local community.
To my mind contemplating the dawn and peace, or an individual standing in prayer before their god, seems to me more important than the ephemera of marches, and the apparent hundreds of millions of dollars spent on commemorating Gallipoli by our government at a time when it wants to cut pensions, and other welfare measures.
Years ago I was working in Queensland, and we were being underpaid. The ganger saw me as a socialist university graduate opposed to the war in Vietnam and told me to keep me mouth shut, otherwise he would give me a hiding: he concluded his advice by telling me how much he had loved killing gooks in Vietnam. It is a pity that racism and suspicion of other cultures is used as a motivation for war, superiority and mistrust today, and an organising tools by those seeking political power.
When I see Vietnam Vets gathered in bikie groups, marching in leathers emblazoned with a death’s head and a slouch head, dressed to cause fear, I lament. I guess it was nice to see they could still march in formation at the ANZAC Day parade in Tea Gardens.
Photo taken with Terrapin 6*6 35mm on Fuji PN400N, and developed in the Unicolor C41 kit.