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Australia pauses to reflect on courage, sacrifice 99 years from end of Great War

Updated November 11, 2017 19:34:39

Silence has fallen in capital cities across Australia to mark 99 years since the end of World War I, and thousands have attended ceremonies to commemorate the occasion.

At the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, a national service heard of the immeasurable sacrifice and suffering faced by Australian servicemen and women in all armed conflicts.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann gave the national commemorative address, telling crowds his Belgian ancestors would never forget the sacrifice of Anzacs on the Western Front.

He said 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of Australia’s bloodiest year in WWI.

“Australia’s sacrifice in 1917 was the greatest our country would ever pay in war time,” he said.

“In Belgium, around 13,000 Australians paid the ultimate price – it is a price that those who lived there and their descendants have not forgotten in the last 100 years.

“In the country of my birth, Australians marched to defend and to die for the land of my family.”

In Melbourne, crowds gathered for a ceremony at the Shrine of Remembrance, where lawns were adorned by 200,000 woollen poppies for the occasion.

The poppy remains a symbol of Remembrance Day, due to the famous poem which noted the abundance of the flower on the blood-soaked Flanders Fields in Belgium.

Richard Embleton from Geelong RSL said the wool flowers were a powerful tribute.

“The women who did that, it shows the love and gratitude of what their families mean to them and it’s really important that we understand that,” he said.

“You only have to look around Australia [to see] how free we are and how important it is.”

On Sydney’s Bondi Beach, about 100 people gathered to sing Remembrance Day songs in an RSL Youth Choir event.

Children and their families recreated a photo of the Australian map with the red cross emblem in the centre, taken in 1915.

NSW Governor David Hurley, who was in Bondi to watch the event, said it was important new generations remembered the Anzacs and created new ways to honour their service.

“It’s important in this centenary period that we help them remember what that legacy from 100 years ago was but give it new meaning for the future,” Governor Hurley said.

“They need to interpret through their own lens and their own filter.”

At a service in Perth, WA Governor Kerry Sanderson noted all those who were often not acknowledged upon their return home from service, including Indigenous soldiers, women, and Vietnam veterans.

She told hundreds of attendees that many women veterans no longer attended memorials because they were asked to prove their service, or told to wear their medals on the right under the mistaken belief the medals were not theirs.

“This is hurtful to them as it means their service is not recognised,” she said.

Dozens of services were held in South Australia, including at Adelaide’s oldest cemetery on West Terrace.

Among those pausing to reflect at the burial ground was one of the surviving few Rats of Tobruk, Bill Corey, who turned 100 in August.

Topics: world-war-1, history, community-and-society, canberra-2600, act, australia

First posted November 11, 2017 11:30:47

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