Anzac Day Dawn Service at the Bomana War Cemetery in PNG. (Photo: Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor General)
Lawrence Kaiapo Gerry is a Papua New Guinean studying in Sydney, he shares his first experience of Anzac Day in Australia and reflects on what the day symbolises for both Australia and Papua New Guinea.

I saw the words ‘lest we forget’ on a placard on Friday, the day before Anzac Day 2015 when I was travelling on a bus. The words suddenly reminded me of the commemoration of Anzac Day the following day.

The dawning of the new day arrived with the music of the marching band and enthusiastic people heading for dawn services. The band’s pipes and drums accompanied the journey of the brave soldiers. It was a time to remember the fallen and surviving soldiers, who fought bravely on behalf of the people of Australia and New Zealand.

Anzac Day 2015 was a day to travel back one hundred years ago to 25 April 1915 when Australian troops landed in Gallipoli to begin a punishing eight-month campaign. More than 8,700 soldiers lost their lives during the Gallipoli campaign, with more than 2,000 fatalities on the first day alone. Anzac Day is also a time to remember soldiers who died in other conflicts and peacekeeping operations, like those in Vietnam and Afghanistan.

As a first timer attending an official Anzac Day parade at Martin Place in the heart of Sydney, the experience was really astounding and worthwhile. People from all walks of life gathered to participate and witness the occasion.

Lawrence at his first Anzac Day commemoration service (photo supplied: Lawrence Kaiapo Gerry).

I could see the passion Australians have to commemorate Anzac Day, with some bystanders moved to tears by the ceremony. The Day marks a special history for the Australian people. Among the crowd were some war veterans, both men and women. Although they were very old, they were still able to withstand the day’s activities. It was their time, the time to remember their heroic achievements and to pay tribute to their fallen comrades. The atmosphere was really a blessing to many who observed and participated in this annual event.

Although I have never been a part of any war, it was really touching for me. I tried to put myself in the shoes of those who had gone through that era of war. I also thought about how my country, Papua New Guinea, was involved in World War Two and assisted especially Australian troops to fight against the Japanese and the number of casualties that were accounted and not accounted for. With that in mind, I prayed silently to God for his peace and endurance to settle my emotions.

I had an opportunity to meet an old lady who is a war veteran, her name is Daphne Dunne and she is 95 years old. Her husband, Albert Chowne was also a war veteran who died some years ago. Daphne and Albert were based in Australia during the Second World War. With Daphne’s permission, I took some photos of her. Her photographs will always remind me of the tough times that the brave soldiers went through to fulfil their duties.

Veteran Daphne Dunn who shared her story with Lawrence (photo supplied: Lawrence Kaiapo Gerry).

I was also fortunate to meet a gentleman whose father was a World War Two veteran. He shared some interesting points with me regarding the impact and importance of World War Two. He said that without the war, Australia would not be what it is today. The war is of great significance in the hearts and minds of many Australians.

As we were chatting, I saw a band marching towards the monument, followed by a group of war veterans and their families and friends, and the families and friends of fallen soldiers. Wreaths were placed at the monument that was created in memory of those lost as signs of honour, respect and reverence. Whispers of prayers were made to acknowledge the fallen. This was followed by the official laying of wreaths by the embassies and consulates of different countries based in Sydney. Among them was the Consular General of Papua New Guinea, who paid tribute to the soldiers lost in war on behalf of PNG.

In some parts of PNG, they also held special dawn services to commemorate Anzac Day. The Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea, Ms Deborah Stokes said “Anzac Day is an opportunity to reflect on the spirit of Anzac forged at Gallipoli and continued in the jungles and mountains of Papua New Guinea, and to reflect on the courage and sacrifice of all service men and women. In World War Two, Australians fought alongside men of the Papuan Infantry Battalion and the Pacific Islands Regiment. They were assisted by about 50,000 Papuan and New Guinean civilians who carried supplies, evacuated the sick and wounded, and built bases, airfields and other infrastructure.”

After participating in the events of Anzac Day and reading about the special commemoration ceremonies which took place elsewhere, I can really see the importance of historic wars and how they affect the development of a country. As the expression urges, ‘lest we forget’ the services and sacrifices of the brave soldiers of past wars and their contributions to the common good and prosperity. In true spirit, we should always remember and treasure their efforts in all wars, conflicts and peace keeping missions.

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Lawrence Kaiapo Gerry - Lecturer and Researcher - Lowy Institute

Lawrence Kaiapo Gerry

Lecturer and Researcher

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Lawrence Kaiapo Gerry hails from Papua New Guinea and is doing his PhD in Education, evaluating language education policy at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. He holds a Bachelor of Education and a Bachelor of Education with Honors from the University of Goroka, PNG. He also graduated with a Master of TESOL from Deakin University, Melbourne in 2006. Lawrence has been a language lecturer and researcher for the last 8 years at the University of Goroka. He has a keen interest in policy development and is currently working as an Intern with the Melanesia Program at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, Sydney.