Australians pause to remember war dead

Australia's tradition of mateship and courage has been remembered more than a century after the end of World War I.

The country paused at 11am to mark Remembrance Day and commemorate the 103,000 Australians who lost their lives in wars and peacekeeping operations.

The national event at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra was the first to be held without COVID-19 social restrictions since 2019, attracting hundreds of people including veterans, their families and schoolchildren.

The Australian spirit of mateship and courage was lauded by former War Memorial chair Kerry Stokes, who during his keynote address recounted an SAS sergeant saying that "to let down your mates in combat would be worse than death".

"We now see that tradition passed down in civilian acts of courage, motivated by concern for others, from bushfires to floods to pandemics, to those other extremes which will also affect our country and rock our foundations," Mr Stokes said.

Previously known as Armistice Day to commemorate the signing of the peace agreement that ended World War I, Remembrance Day honours all Australians who lost their lives in conflicts.

East Timor veteran Anthony Williams said Remembrance Day meant "everything" to him.

Leading seaman Matthew Joseph played the didgeridoo for the service, and said being able to showcase his Indigenous culture was an "amazing opportunity".

"For me it's speaking to the spirits and helping them guide them back to where they come from," he said.

He said he had a proud family history of service and followed in his sister's footsteps to join the defence force.

NSW Governor Margaret Beazley led Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, veterans royal commissioner Peggy Brown and other dignitaries in the laying of wreaths at Sydney's Martin Place.

Rear Admiral Jonathan Earley, Commander Australian Fleet, said those killed in action had not died in vain.

"Their service in the direct defence of Australia reminds us of what matters: that whatever the cost the price of liberty is worth paying," he said.

Mr Albanese told reporters after the service it had been an honour to attend the ceremony.

"We must always remember the brave men and women who have defended our nation at our time of need, who have made the ultimate sacrifice," he said.

Victorian Governor Linda Dessau noted it was the first Remembrance Day since the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

"I think of her in 1940, as a 14-year-old girl, delivering her first public address on radio, to the young people affected by World War II," the governor said.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, who attended a ceremony in his Brisbane electorate, said it was a "simple, sacred and significant custom".

"We pay tribute to all Australians who have served in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations from Federation through to the present day," he said.

This year marked several significant milestones, including the 50th anniversary of the end of national service and 75 years of Australia's involvement in peacekeeping operations.

Red poppies, traditionally worn on Remembrance Day, lit up the sails of the Sydney Opera House at dawn and in the evening.

In Melbourne, bugle players were stationed at 16 CBD intersections to play the Last Post at 11am. Landmarks such as Federation Square, the MCG and Town Hall were lit in red.