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This Anzac Day embrace NZ values



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.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern greets members of the Muslim community a week after the Christchurch mosque attacks (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)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 the devastation of the lives of their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, fiancées and children. It is incredulity that the politicians of the day did not halt the march to war but sent them to their deaths. It is grief for those who have recently died violent deaths in both our nations.

It is recognition of the power that hatred, resentment, ambition, fascination with the gadgetry and bling of war, and the illusion that war can make a man, can take our eyes away from the people whose lives are robbed because of our inattention. What should unite Australians and New Zealanders is a resolute focus on the persons who matter and sadness at the waste that led to their deaths.

In Australia this year Anzac Day occurs in the midst of an election campaign in which traditionally the most mendacious appeal to Australian values, the most vacuous promises and the most disrespectful behaviour are put on display. The major Political Parties have mercifully declared the day campaign free. The pause and the occasion give us space to ask what we would want for the two countries united by Anzac Day.

In both our nations we may hope for more leaders like Jacinda Ardern who will shape the public conversation and symbols of our nations by their simplicity and steady focus on what matters and particularly on the people who matter. These include especially the people who are disrespected. If in the celebration of Anzac Day that means a smaller a and a larger NZ, so be it.



Andrew HamiltonAndrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street.

Main image: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern greets members of the Muslim community a week after the Christchurch mosque attacks (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, Anzac Day, Christchurch attacks, Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand



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Existing comments

Fr Andrew, the Anzacs died because of a plan devised by the British to force the German ally (Turkey) out of the war. It wasnt about values. It was about strategy. "This failed when the warships were unable to force a way through the Dardanelles. A third of the battleships were sunk or disabled on a single day, 18 March 1915." Australian War memorial. As General Hamilton poignantly said, " Are the High Gods bringing our new Iliad to grief? At whose door will history leave the blame for the helpless, hopeless fix we are left in?" The answer was Churchill. He was first Lord of the Admiralty and he sent the ships in knowing the risks. The Anzacs were canon fodder for his ego thrown against well fortified positions with heavy machine guns and not a snowflake's chance in hell of winning. Well may we sympathize with NZ and the victims of Tarrant's massacre. But we do not share his values. Now the valor of the Anzacs has lost its shine because of Erdogan and his political posturing about ChCh. The politicians of Australia have been sadly left in the shade by Jacinda Adern.

Francis Armstrong | 17 April 2019  

Churchill learnt nothing from his glaring incompetence and again during World War II displayed his insufferable, ignorant British superiority and disregard for the colonies when John Curtin PM requested that Australian troops be released from their duties in Europe to return to defend Australia when the Japanese invaded New Guinea on their way to the Australian mainland, "Let the Japanese have Australia. We'll get it back after the war - if we want it", said the great man. As Francis Armstrong says, the British values as espoused by the likes of Churchill bear no resemblance to Australian or New Zealand values or indeed to those of any of the erstwhile colonies raped and pillaged, both in resources and people, by England to its own advantage. It seems to be the order of the day to denigrate so-called Australian values. Why? Such will eventually succeed in ridding us of any values at all. Hopefully the critics have numerous real values held in readiness to replace them when that happens.

john frawley | 18 April 2019  

Francis’ and John Frawley’s responses appear to me to have entirely missed the point of Father Andrew’s post. This is not about historical strategy, the leadership of Churchill or the notion that Gallipoli might have been a victory “if only…”. Andrew is trying to get us to see past the presumptious machismo that so bedevils public Australian appropriation of valour virtue and the “Anzac legend” and its disgusting politicisation in recent years. He wants us to see that the historical affinity between the two Anzac nations offers an opportunity for a different and more compassionate and less juvenile take on the whole story. For some reason we Australians look at the Mercator map of Australia and NZ and compare sizes like insecure boys might tend to do. He implies that, in the face of the sensitive gesture of Jacinda Adern compared to cruder rhetoric, we might benefit from not only revising our text books but starting a whole new discourse and legend about “aNZac”.

Stephen | 18 April 2019  

“This Anzac Day embrace New Zealand values” You mean, purported New Zealand values which, at the date of publication of this article, were a month and two days old? What New Zealand values did New Zealand celebrate last ANZAC Day? The same as the Australian values we celebrated at the same time, soldierly bravery and endurance in service of country?

roy chen yee | 18 April 2019  

Celebrate is the wrong word to use,rather we are honouring the futile sacrifice of young Australian,New Zealand and Turkish lives at Gallipoli. Acknowledging that they fought with valour and honour on all sides and reminding ourselves that all war is an abomination. Politics that trades on fear, distrust and anger is worse.

Michael Howson | 19 April 2019  

There’s a lot of talk about “values”: they’re products of people’s estimations, choices; they’re priorities, preferences, at different times. No wonder they vary. Reflect a moment: is bravery “Australian”? Is “Compassion”? “Justice”? “Inclusiveness”? “Tolerance”? “Peace”? etc. The critics may be right to caution against idolising one country – New Zealand – simply because another country – Australia (or fill in the blank) – appears epitomised at a given time by politicians who voice the opposite ideas, or remain silent in the face of violence. They would not be right to suggest, or imply, that just because, a mere month ago, prior to the Christchurch massacre, the sentiments and gestures of the head of the NZ nation had not had cause to say or do the things she did when it occurred, that the values expressed by Jacinda Adern were somehow not reflective of the NZ nation. The point is what is said or done when a crisis occurs: the people of NZ voted in Jacinda Adern; the people of Australia voted in John Howard and Peter Reith – of Tampa and children overboard lies renown - and continue to vote in governments who punish or marginalise the vulnerable. ‘Nuff said: time for a major revaluation.

Stephen | 21 April 2019  

I suppose that if we are to embrace New Zealand values on this Anzac Day we should all take a leaf out of Jacinda Ardern's book and wear a crucifix around our necks in sympathy with the Christians/Catholics killed by religious hatred in Sri Lanka (including a couple of Australian citizens). Wonder what Jacinda will be wearing in sympathy.

john frawley | 23 April 2019  

Jacinda Adern chose to wear a head-scarf in the moment it’s true, and you could choose to wear a cross, John. But how did you choose to show your compassion and sensitivity towards the Muslim victims? Your question is ungenerous, and trivial: her values are not completely encompassed by a single detail, as yours would not be. But again, I stress the values of justice and compassion do not belong to any nation, and the issue is whether a people can overcome jingoism to recognise when someone in another place shows us up.

Stephen | 24 April 2019  

I watched some of a celebration from Perth this morning. It included a combined Corroborree / Haka calling for life over death with an intention of addressing the issue of suicide while also paying respect to those who have died in war. We need more of this. Let's listen to our indigenous peoples.

James | 25 April 2019  

Well said John Frawley. I read through this article of Fr Andrew's with the dismay that I often feel when I read Eureka Street articles. Sometimes I respond; mostly I just close off in the realisation that these pages are not intended for traditional Catholics. What now do we say about the massacres in Sri Lanka of our Catholic brothers and sisters, who doubtless went to celebrate Easter mass with joy in their hearts? By all accounts the perpetrators were not the simple, easily manipulated, members of a certain religion. Most were highly educated in a secular sense, and no doubt, their Islamic values.

bb | 25 April 2019  

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