‘There’s profound courage in each of us’
KERRI-ANNE KENNERLEY says our Aussie spirit should be celebrated
John and I travelled to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra recently, where we spent time with the director, Dr Brendan Nelson. Having covered Anzac Day for more than 30 years on live TV, I thought I understood the Australian spirit. But our visit deepened my understanding of who we are and why.
I realised the War Memorial is not about war, but about those who showed amazing personal qualities. Most who fought were not professional soldiers, but farmers, labourers etc. Ordinary people who displayed extraordinary character.
The roll of honour lists 102,185 names of the fallen. Men who faced adversity. Nurses who comforted strangers. The Anzac spirit was born and forged through looking out for each other.
A sensitive addition to the roll of honour is the recorded voices of schoolchildren reading the names of a fallen soldier. Hearing these names makes it an even more poignant reality.
I’ve never known anyone as passionate as Brendan, who choked back tears several times, relating stories of courage and bravery from ordinary Aussies.
You then enter the Hall of Memory where the tomb of the unknown soldier is interred, and every bit is symbolic. It drenches your soul with what sacrifices were made, and the character that was shown.
Under each of the 15 stained glass windows of uniformed soldiers is a single word that describes their traits. They were resourceful, audacious, devoted, loyal, patriotic and chivalrous, they had candour and curiosity. They were Australian.
It helped me understand how they did what had to be done. I wish every man, woman, child and new Australian would visit the war memorial in Canberra, not to honour war but to understand our Aussie spirit. These inscribed words sum it up... “Here is their spirit and here we guard the record which they themselves made,” CEW Bean.