‘There’s pro­found courage in each of us’

KERRI-ANNE KENNERLEY says our Aussie spirit should be cel­e­brated

Woman’s Day (Australia) - - Health -

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.

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