Like WWI, pandemic has reshaped Australia

·3-min read

Australians have been reminded tough times will be overcome and there is hope beyond the darkness as the nation paused to remember the end of World War I more than a hundred years ago.

In a hard year marked by the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Summer bushfires, Victoria Cross recipient Corporal Daniel Keighran said the qualities that served Australians more than a century ago still applied today.

"Australia has been tested by seen and unseen enemies," one of our most highly decorated soldiers told dignitaries, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, at a Remembrance Day service at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

"Wars and pandemics have one very stark thing in common: they do not discriminate by race, gender or age.

"In the darkest days, there is always a glimmer of light found in the mateship, comradeship and loyalty that is at the very core, the essence, of all that it means to be Australian."

Remembrance Day on Wednesday marks the 102nd anniversary of the guns falling silent on the Western Front on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month at the end of the Great War.

Almost 62,000 Australians died during the bloody conflict between 1914 to 1918.

"We must never forget their sacrifice," Corp Keighran said.

Following WWI, Australia had to deal with the impact of the deadly Spanish flu, which killed 50 million people worldwide, including 12,000 Australians.

But Australia showed "remarkable" perseverance through both events and the Great Depression, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the subsequent conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and East Timor that followed, as well as year's bushfires and the pandemic.

"The events of 2020 have challenged us all," Corp Keighran said.

"Like war, they have shaped or sharpened our focus on what is important: family, friends and loved ones.

"Australia truly is a lucky country and even in the most challenging times there is nowhere else I want to be."

After COVID-19 disrupted Anzac Day commemorations, Remembrance Day services were smaller this year due to social distancing rules.

But across the nation, Australians still stood at 11am for a minute of silent reflection for the men and women who lost their lives in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping efforts.

In Canberra, the War Memorial ceremony was televised nationally, retaining all the traditional elements including the silence, the laying of wreaths and the sounding of the Last Post.

A one-off rule exemption was granted in NSW to allow groups of up to 100 people to gather for services, including at Sydney's Martin Place, as the Opera House was lit up with red poppies from the early hours.

In Victoria, with only 10 people allowed to congregate at memorials and local cenotaphs, the traditional ceremony at Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance was closed to the public but went ahead as a virtual presentation.

In Brisbane, the annual service in Anzac Square was broadcast live on RSL Queensland's Facebook page.

Similar commemorations were also held in Adelaide, Perth and Darwin.