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What is ANZAC day all about?

Blog | Adelaide

Moving to a new country can be overwhelming when you’re expected to not only speak the language, but learn the customs. There may be many unfamiliar observance days different from your own country. Anzac Day is one of those you may wish to learn about as it is one of Australia’s most sacred days of the year.

What does ANZAC mean and why April 25th?

ANZAC is an acronym and stands for Australian New Zealand Army Corps. The name is given to the body of troops raised by the two countries to aid the British Empire in the Great War. Throughout the war, Australian and New Zealand troops, or ‘Diggers’ and ‘Kiwis’, would live, fight and die alongside each other. This created a bond that still exists between our two nations today. The landing by the ANZACs on Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula on 25 April 1915 was Australia’s first major action of the Great War. These soldiers quickly became known as ANZACs, and the pride they took in that name endures to this day.

“Anzac is not merely about loss. It is about courage, and endurance, and duty, and love of country, and mateship, and good humour and the survival of a sense of self-worth and decency in the face of dreadful odds.”– Sir William Deane, Governor-General of Australia on Anzac Day 1999

What is Anzac Day and where is it observed?

Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations” and “the contribution and suffering of all those who have served.” As the name suggests, it is celebrated in Australia and New Zealand.

Where can I go to pay my respects?

There are dawn services, commemorative marches and remembrance services to observe and pay tribute to all those who have served.


The Dawn Service

It is often suggested that the Dawn Service observed on Anzac Day has its origins in a military routine still followed by the Australian Army. The half-light of dawn was one of the times favoured for launching an attack. Soldiers in defensive positions were woken in the dark before dawn, so by the time first light crept across the battlefield they were awake, alert, and manning their weapons; this is still known as the “stand-to”. As dusk is equally favourable for battle, the stand-to was repeated at sunset.

Ok, where can I go to see one?


For Brisbane, Anzac Day will begin with the Dawn Service at the Shrine of Remembrance in Anzac Square at 4.28am sharp, coinciding with the sunrise, in remembrance of the Anzac soldiers who rowed to the shores of Gallipoli on April 25, 1915.

At 10am the Anzac Day Parade begins through the city streets, with members of the Australian Defence Force and descendants of World War I and World War II soldiers joining the march. For residents wishing to watch the parade, Brisbane City Council advises that the best locations are along Adelaide Street between George Street and Creek Street, running between 10am and 1pm.


Commemorative services and marches are held at dawn at the Shrine of Remembrance, suburban RSL. After the dawn service (6am) and march, the ‘gunfire breakfast’ recalls the ‘breakfast’ taken by many soldiers before facing battle. Come together to remember the Australian men and women who served and sacrificed in the name of peace, and those who continue to do so.

From 8:30am, show your support as thousands of veterans and current serving personnel march down St Kilda Road, concluding at the Shrine.


The Adelaide Dawn Service is held at the South Australian National War Memorial on the corner of Kintore Avenue and North Terrace and begins at 6.00 am.

The ANZAC Day March traditionally commences at 9:30 am from North Terrace, Adelaide, from the SA National War Memorial, and turns right onto King William Road. The march concludes at the Cross of Sacrifice in Pennington Gardens, North Adelaide.  Spectators are invited to line both North Terrace and King William Road (between North Terrace and the Adelaide Bridge).


Poppies, poppies everywhere

The Flanders poppy has been a part of as part of Anzac Day observances for many years now. During the First World War, the red poppies were seen to be among the first living plants sprouting from the devastation of the battlefields of northern France and Belgium. Soldiers’ folklore had it that the poppies were vivid red from having been nurtured in ground drenched with the blood of their comrades.

The Ode

In most ceremonies of remembrance there is a reading of an appropriate poem. One traditional recitation on Anzac Day is the Ode.

The Ode comes from For the Fallen, a poem by the English poet and writer Laurence Binyon. It was published in London in the Winnowing Fan; Poems of the Great War in 1914. The verse, which became the League Ode, was already used in association with commemoration services in Australia in 1921.

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

One more thing, what’s two-up?

Two-up is a traditional Australian gambling game, involving a designated “spinner” throwing two coins or pennies into the air. Players bet on whether the coins will fall with both heads (obverse) up, both tails (reverse) up, or with one coin a head and one a tail (known as “Ewan”). It is traditionally played on Anzac Day in pubs and clubs throughout Australia, in part to mark a shared experience with Diggers through the ages.



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