ANZAC Day reflections

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.

Dawn

Dawn

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.

Afternoon prayers

Afternoon prayers

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.

Dome and chandelier

Dome and chandelier

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.

In step and formation

In step and formation

Photo taken with Terrapin 6*6 35mm on Fuji PN400N, and developed in the Unicolor C41 kit.

5 thoughts on “ANZAC Day reflections

    • Apparently, at some point in the last 5 years it was possible to apply to the Dutch government for a medal that recognized that service. I could not see the point as my father and mother had died 10 and 12 years ago respectively. It might have been better if they had been honored when they were alive. Because my mother served as a Dutch national in the British army, I still have her papers, including a script of broadcasts she made for the BBC to Holland. When we visited in 2007, my cousin showed me a memorial outside the town where he had been hiding during the war and active. Hundreds of thousands of tons of weapons had been dropped nearby. Many of the men in the town had been rounded up and massacred at one point. My father always liked to talk of the funny things. Sometimes medals just don’t seem that important, but remembering those who died, and not letting unjust wars and governments happen again is more important, especially by speaking up.

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