Where are contemporary veterans in the Anzac Centenary’s ‘Century of Service’?

One of the most striking aspects of Australia’s Anzac Centenary in comparison with other countries’ First World War centenaries is the number of anniversaries that will be commemorated.

In the United Kingdom, the First World War Centenary is shaped around six key dates; in Canada, 100 Years: First World War 1914-1918 will mark 12 centennials [1]; and in New Zealand, WW100 consists of 12 national commemorations.

Meanwhile, Australia’s Anzac Centenary will mark no fewer than 36 significant commemorative dates, so that a commemoration will occur, on average, once every 43 days.

Only ten of these ‘significant commemorative dates’ relate to the First World War. The others are drawn from the Second World War, Korea, the Malayan Emergency, Indonesian Confrontation, Vietnam, the First Gulf War, and Somalia. This is in keeping with the Anzac Centenary theme ‘Century of Service’, which “has been developed to give Australians the opportunity to commemorate their fellow countrymen and women who have fought and served, and continue to fight and serve, in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.” The ‘Century of Service’ recognises “the more than 100 years of other [non-First World War] service since the Boer War to the present day and how this continues the Anzac tradition” (my emphasis). [2]

If we accept the premise that all servicemen and -women since Federation have served in “the Anzac tradition” and must be recognised during the Anzac Centenary, it becomes difficult to explain why the last ‘significant commemorative dates’ chosen are the 25th anniversary of the end of the First Gulf War in February 2016 and the 25th anniversary of the arrival of 1RAR task group in Somalia in January 2018.  Continue reading

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