Commemorating ANZAC Day the Australian way

On April 25 Australia takes the day to remember and honour 8,709 Australians who sacrificed their lives in Gallipoli during the First World War.1 As part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in 1915, they were met with strong resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders, and suffered great loss.

As Australia and New Zealand’s first fought major military action, the news of casualties during the landing at Gallipoli and the events that followed were a shock to those back home, and ultimately left us with the powerful legacy we have today. Since the Second World War, it has also become a day to recognise all Australian service men and women killed in military options.

Commemorative services

Typically held at dawn – the same time as the original landing in Gallipoli – commemorative services for the fallen occur at war memorials across the country followed by marches through cities and smaller centres. The Australian War Memorial hosts thousands of people in the nation’s capital in Canberra, starting at 4.40am with excerpts from the letters and diaries of Australians who experienced war firsthand read aloud.

Ceremonies will usually feature an introduction, hymns, prayers, an address, and the laying of the wreaths. There will often also be a recitation, the Last Post, and a period of silence. The national anthem will be sung, and families and other attendees will place red poppies beside service personnel names on the Roll of Honour at the Memorial. You’ll also notice attendees often wearing rosemary, which is found growing wild on the Gallipoli peninsula.

Australians attending dawn service at Australian War Memorial in Canberra
Image: Australian War Memorial

Please note: Information above may be subject to change. Check your local guides.

Dawn service with a difference

If you’re up early in the harbour city, you may spot a group of people participating in their very own ANZAC Day Dawn Service atop the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Wandering Warriors organisation gives people a chance to pay their respects at the top of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, ascending while the city sleeps under a blanket of darkness. All profits from the experience are donated to Wandering Warriors whose work provides care, support, and opportunities to current and returned service men and women.

Two-up tournaments

Australians have adopted various traditions for the day – such as making and enjoying ANZAC biscuits – to keep the memory and experiences of the ANZACs alive. But none are more thrilling than the two-up games played around the country in pubs and RSL clubs.

This is the only day it’s legal to play the betting game in public, which became popular with Australian diggers during World War 1.2 It’s a simple game involving placing a bet on heads or tails as the result of two coins tossed in the air. Check up on the rules at your local venue.

However you choose to spend April 25, the day provides a powerful backdrop to reflect on the nation’s past, and remember the qualities of the ANZAC spirit – courage, mateship, and sacrifice.