WITH MICHAEL PILBROW
On April 25, 2017, we witnessed again why Anzac Day is a special day. It was raining, even pouring, in Yass for the march and service held mid-morning, yet everything proceeded as usual and there was a large and respectful crowd. As far as I could see, no one flinched because of the rain – people of all ages stood for an hour to listen, be silent and even to sing. This is different to what happens with other events when it rains – at a footy game, some people in the crowd run for cover as soon as heavy rain starts. But not on Anzac Day. So much for sport being our national religion – Anzac Day demonstrated again that it ranks above all other days for sombre and heartfelt reflection by Australians all over the country and from all walks of life.
We were also reminded that Anzac Day is not just about Australia, but it is just as much about New Zealand, our closest neighbour. In the news of the march at the War Memorial in Canberra, we saw a group of indigenous Australian and Maori marchers. The indigenous people of both countries have always fought in wars that our countries have joined, but were not always given the recognition they deserved. So it was great to see that indigenous returned servicemen and women were highlighted at this year’s Anzac Day commemorations.
But I couldn’t help but hope that this separate recognition of indigenous military service was a one-off this year – and feel very strongly that the best recognition is to be included as part of the march on an equal basis.
If my own grandad was still alive, I would hope to see him march with the men he served with in the New Zealand Army in World War II, not be treated differently because he happened to be of Maori descent.
Surely reconciliation means we include and walk alongside our indigenous brothers and sisters on Anzac Day and every other day.
A big thank you to the local RSL for organising another memorable Anzac Day across the Yass Valley, and helping us to remember those Australians and New Zealanders, of all backgrounds, who have fought and died in war for our two countries.
Lest we forget.