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Australia's days of the dead

  • 28 April 2014

A solemn service welcomes the dawn. Families brave the weather to pay their respects. Some pray, some call forth memories. In doing so, they bring to the present the experiences of our country's past so that they can carry them into the future. ANZAC Day is a powerful and worthy ritual. But the tales of our soldiers make up only one of the ongoing chapters in the story of our country. There are many others.

On 25 January, let us remember the Indigenous people who once nurtured the land. Let us remember those who were killed when the settlers came to our shores — by violence, displacement or disease. Let us remember those whose lives were destroyed by policies that alienated and dehumanised them. Let us remember the Indigenous people who still die in our prisons, and those who die of substance abuse or poor health.

On 25 February, let us remember those who gave their lives in settling this unforgiving land. Let us remember those like Burke and Wills who found themselves unprepared and unfit to survive in harsh environments. Let us remember those who died because they were too remote to find medical care. Let us also remember the more recent victims of bushfires, floods and storms, each continuing in the tradition of those first settlers in trying to build a safe haven in our unpredictable world.

On 25 March, let us remember the people who lost their lives migrating to this country: the ships that wrecked themselves off our treacherous shores; the convicts and migrants who died of illness on the journey. Let us remember also those who have died trying to come to this country today as refugees, and those who die around the world with their hearts set on finding a safe home like the one that we enjoy.

On 25 April, let us continue to remember our fallen soldiers, who sacrificed their lives in war. Let us remember those who served in Australia, or fought to protect the country in the Pacific. Let us remember the wives and children they left behind. Let us remember those soldiers who have served and died more recently in places such as Afghanistan, and the other peoples around the world who continue to be caught up in conflict.

On 25 May, let us remember the women who have gone before us. Let us remember those who died in childbirth. Let us remember those