The aim of the workshop is to gain multi-disciplinary perspectives of how Anzac Day is constructed, perceived and interpreted within the context of contemporary Australia.

The workshop will:

  • provide a holistic understanding of the current roles and place of this ‘one day of the year’ within the broader context of Australian culture and society.
  • assist to identify the emerging issues, challenges and opportunities for Anzac Day—as a day of national significance as well as its associated commemorations—and propose ways in which the issues and challenges can be addressed and the opportunities harnessed.

The ANZAC legend has developed into one of Australia’s—and New Zealand’s—most significant aspects of culture. Contemporary attitudes towards conflict suggest that ANZAC Day commemorations, however, might wane in the future. On the other hand, increasing attendance numbers at ANZAC Day Services, particularly of younger generations, suggest that support for ANZAC Day is gaining momentum. Different stakeholders of the day will be seeking different meaning and experiences from their participation, and their non-participation, in the commemorations. Issues of integrity and sustainability therefore are emerging. It is imperative that questions be raised with regard to the future of ANZAC Day.

  • What significance will ANZAC Day hold for Australians in the future?
  • Who will take responsibility for the future of ANZAC Day?
  • What might become of ANZAC Day commemorations in the future?
  • Can analysis of the past and the future provide insights as to how this day of Australian significance may best be managed so that a balance between its sustainability and integrity can be attained?

ANZAC Day will be commemorating its centenary in 2015 and although this might seem to be some time hence, this aspect of Australian culture requires careful consideration. In 2005, the commemorations at ANZAC Cove were a resounding success—if attendance numbers are used as a measure (Pepperell, 2005). Increasing attendance numbers suggest increasing support for the tradition. At the 90th, Dawn Service at ANZAC Cove in 2005, attendance numbers were estimated to be about 20,000 (Berstein, 2005). Most attendees walked from the Dawn Service around the Gallipoli Peninsula to other commemorative services held during the day at Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair, as they do each year. Attendees represented a range of stakeholders, including the Returned Services League (RSL), war veterans, members of the armed services, official dignitaries and members of the public. While the large attendance numbers at ANZAC Cove services likely reflect the ‘resurgence’ of community interest in this aspect of Australian history, not all attendees were necessarily similar to the ‘pilgrims’ of 1965 or to many of those in 2005. In 2005, it became evident that attendees are motivated to attend Services at ANZAC Cove for a range of reasons that are grounded in concepts such as military history, war memory, pilgrimage, tourism and leisure.

The commemorations were already the source of media attention well before ANZAC Day 2005. Media reports in the weeks preceding ANZAC Day suggested that public opinion on the widening of the road was that the integrity of the peninsula’s landscape was being dramatically changed—so much so that the public expressed its concern that the authenticity of the landscape, which played a pivotal role in the ANZAC’s story, was being jeopardized. These reports have stimulated an emerging national debate about the future of the commemorations. Pepperall (2005) noted that the increasing number of attendees on the ANZAC Cove Peninsula is a managerial issue of concern for organisers of the commemorative service. Different stakeholders voiced their attitudes about the services at ANZAC Cove, including the Returned Services League and the general public. Berstein (2005) and Skelton (2005) reported that the behaviour of some attendees at the Dawn Service involved a great deal of revelry.

A closer examination of recent media reports and editorials on commemorations at ANZAC Cove, however, indicate that there are mixed reactions from the Australian community to ‘revelry’ at ANZAC Cove. Parker (2005), when writing to The Age, thought that ‘the original ANZAC’s would probably regard today’s revelers with disdain—their own parties would have been much wilder’. Rick Landers, head of the Rotary Youth Leadership awardees who attended the 2005 Dawn Service, said while he ‘found the atmosphere magic…the rubbish which was left behind was no worse than after a football match’. While the ages of Parker and Landers were not stated, Anderson, 70, when writing to The Age, wrote that in 2002 he spent ‘several days’ on the Gallipoli Peninsula and joined in the celebrations with younger attendees. He further commented that he felt that younger attendees admired the ANZAC soldiers and that ‘they did so with dignity and respect’. On the other hand, McKenzie (2005) when writing to The Age, stated that the ‘baptism of fire begins on the Gold Coast in Schoolies Week offensive…how proud they must feel, draped in the Australian Flag, staggering tall and proud as they urinate on this sacred site…What a shameful victory’.

The emerging public discourse on this topic of Australia’s culture provides the impetus for inter-disciplinary discussion. It is timely, therefore, after the 90th anniversary of the first ANZAC Day that stakeholders’ views of the future of ANZAC Day commemorations are considered within such a framework, and disseminated to policy-makers and the wider public, through this inter-disciplinary workshop.