Another chapter in Anzac tradition closes

·3-min read

As Australia prepares to end its 20-year mission in Afghanistan, Anzac Day marks another chapter in the nation's history coming to a close, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says.

Thousands of Australians turned out to services and marches - or lit up their driveways with candles - on Sunday to mark the 106th anniversary of the landings at Gallipoli.

It came 10 days after Mr Morrison announced the last remaining 80 Australian Defence Force personnel would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by September.

"This Anzac Day another chapter in our history is coming to a close, with the announcement last week of our departure and that of our great friend and ally, the United States, from Afghanistan," Mr Morrison said.

"Australia has been a steadfast contributor to the fight against terrorism.

"It's been our longest war.

"The world is safer from the threat of terrorism than when the twin towers were felled almost 20 years ago. But we remain vigilant."

He noted it had come at great cost with 41 lives lost out of the 39,000 who served and many still "carrying the wounds and scars of war, seen and unseen".

"They are the bravest of this generation."

It was a different feel and look compared to last year when Anzac Day was marked by crowd-free services for the first time in more than a century as the COVID-19 pandemic kept people indoors.

However services in Western Australia's Perth and Peel regions were cancelled after a hotel quarantine outbreak led to community virus transmission and the imposition of a three-day lockdown.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese, who attended a dawn service in Balmain, said freedom should not be taken for granted, nor was it free.

"We gather here to remember those who have paid its price - and those who are still paying its price," he said.

"For so many, the war does not end when they leave the battlefield.

"It comes as some relief that, after a long campaign by relatives who've lost love ones, there will finally be a royal commission into veteran suicide."

But he said it was important to remember "when darkness surrounds us, there have always been Australians who instinctively rise to push it back until the sun shines upon us all again".

Labor MP and veteran Luke Gosling, who marked Anzac Day in Darwin, said veterans were owed "the best possible system of support".

"As a Vietnam veteran said to me, it is too late for some but it will be a lifesaver for others as we improve that system of care."

Governor-General David Hurley spent Anzac Day in the NT, attending the Darwin dawn service, before travelling to Katherine.

Mr Hurley said Anzac Day was "not just about history, it is very much about the here and now".

"The Anzac legacy has evolved with each and every operation Australia has been involved in," he said.

"For well over 100 years we have seen the Anzac legacy reflected in the manner Australians go about their daily lives, particularly when faced with adversity.

"We should also recognise that the current generation of serving men and women has successfully built on that legacy in their own way."

The governor-general acknowledged the "difficulties" veterans have experienced due to their service.

"We must support those who serve and those who have served and their families."

One of the few surviving "Rats of Tobruk", centenarian Dennis Davis was among the thousands attending Sydney events.

"It's first of all a remembrance of what we went through," Mr Davis said.

Mr Morrison also attended the national ceremony in Canberra, which involved a banner parade and public acknowledgement of the WWII veterans in attendance, in place of the traditional march.

ACT RSL president John King said it was "disappointing" not to be able to fully return to normal activities but the veterans' community understood the need for continuing COVID-19 restrictions.

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