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This Anzac Day embrace NZ values

  • 17 April 2019


When Australians think of Anzac Day, we normally focus on the initial Big A and not on the small nz.  It remains a day to remember the dead, but it is often overlaid by a preoccupation with celebrating Australian national identity, replete with Australian cloaks and flags and reference to Australian warrior values embodied in military campaigns.

This emphasis on our military history is often accompanied by an undertone of exclusion of later migrant groups whose ancestors either did not fight in our wars or fought with our enemies. New Zealanders are co-opted as Australians for the day. Their values, whatever they may be, are forgotten in the celebration.

This year the nationalist values purported to be Australian and to have flowed like blood from Anzac Cove will not do. We celebrate Anzac Day in the aftermath of the Christchurch massacre when over 50 Muslim New Zealand citizens were gunned down at prayer in the name of warrior values that pitted white people against Muslim people in a struggle to the death.

Suspicion of Islam and exclusion of Muslim people from an imagined Australia have been a persistent theme in Australian public life and have often been mined for political advantage.  

In the light of this, Australians celebrating Anzac Day this year cannot assume that New Zealanders share all the values that are deemed Australian. Indeed, this Anzac Day New Zealanders might recall Australians to its more authentic meanings.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern responded to the crisis by going out to the Muslim survivors as precious members of the New Zealand community. She wept with them, wearing a headscarf, as a vulnerable fellow human being and as a representative of the New Zealand people.

She resolutely resisted the temptation to focus attention on the killer and his guns, and insisted on what united New Zealanders, not on what divided them or distinguished them from other peoples. She modelled for her people grief, steadfastness, compassion and community building. These are surely the qualities the young men who died at Anzac Cove would have wished for the children they never lived to have.


"What should unite Australians and New Zealanders this Anzac Day is a resolute focus on the persons who matter and sadness at the waste that led to their deaths."


Seen through the lens of Christchurch, what unites New Zealanders and Australians this Anzac Day is sadness at the death of so many young men and at