In many veterans’ calendars, there is no date more important than the 25th of April. Anzac Day was originally a day of remembrance of the more than 8,000 Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) soldiers who died during the Gallipoli campaign. After landing on the beach in Turkey on the 25th of April 1915, the fight against the Turks went on for 8 months with little but tragedy left in its wake. Over the years Anzac Day has taken on broader significance and become a day of reflection and commemoration for veterans of all generations, and servicemen and women still currently serving.


100 years of national recognition

Allied forces were evacuated from the Gallipoli Peninsula at the end of 1915 and as a nation grieved, the first Anzac Day was held just a few months later on the 25th of April in 1916. Ceremonies were held in Australia, Egypt, London and New Zealand and by 1922 the date was locked in as “a national day of commemoration for the more than 60,000 Australians who had died during the war”.  So, with those dates in mind, 2022 now marks the 100th anniversary of the Anzac Day public holiday becoming official. Millions of Australians turn up or tune in every year to dawn services and marches at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne and the Australian War Memorial in Canberra as a result.


On the streets of your town

While much of the attention of the nation is on these high-profile events, communities across the country mark the day in their own way. There is barely a postcode in Australia that does not have a cenotaph, a statue, a commemorative public park, or an avenue of honour to recognise their fallen and those survivors who have served. At the break of dawn, half the town is there with warm coats, and tissues, fresh floral wreaths, and poppies.   

 Like the national events, those held away from the spotlight follow the same rituals – a dawn service, followed by a march or a coming together in one place, to share and reflect. With medals and uniforms proudly displayed, countless stories are dusted off and unpacked for another year. Beers are poured, pub lunches enjoyed, and almost always there is music, some tears and laughter.


Come in Spinner

There is no more lively or appropriate place to be on Anzac Day than the local RSL. Flags whip in the breeze, while children and grandchildren squeal and run about on the lawns. As lunch is done a crowd gathers and the unmistakeable call of Two-up begins. One of the few games in history that is only ever played publicly on only one day of the year, Two-up was popular amongst soldiers on the front line to pass the time. Its simple premise is for two pennies to be tossed into the air, with bets placed around which way they’d land. It always attracts a crowd and as the pennies fall, the shouts of ‘come in spinner’ ring out, followed by cheers and groans as the result is revealed. A great way to pass the time for soldiers, has become a much-loved Anzac Day tradition.    


Beyond April 25th

For many veterans, Anzac Day is a thing to look forward to, but can also be a challenging experience once it has passed. As the nation goes back to school and work, the memories and traumas of the past remain, particularly for those suffering with mental health issues. Anzac Day can stir up some difficult emotions and it’s important for veterans to reach out for help and support the day after, and for as many days beyond as needed.

For the rest of us, small gestures throughout the year can make a big difference, well after the last Anzac biscuit is gone and months before Remembrance Day is upon us once more. It’s buying a poppy from a veteran on the street, it’s stopping to read the plaques on memorials rather than walking by, it’s visiting the museums, paying respect, and acknowledging their service when the chance to meet a veteran comes our way.