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ANZAC Centenary Dawn Service

Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway Sunday, 19th April, 2015

In the pre-dawn darkness, the same early hours that men of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps edged a century earlier in small wooden boats towards the shores of Gallipoli, some 2,000 people of all ages assembled at the Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway to remember those original Anzacs and to pay homage to their service.

As with other commemorations for the Centenary of Anzac, fitting recognition was accorded all who have served Australia over the past century in the many wars which have claimed over 100,000 lives, wounded numerous more, and greatly affected those fortunate enough to return home.

dawn service poppiesAfter the mounting of the Catafalque Party, the prologue was delivered by Cr. Tony Fasanella, Deputy Mayor for the City of Canada Bay. Mr John Haines AM, Chairman of the KTMW welcomed the official party and all those attending, following which Dr. Tim Sinclair, General Manager of the Concord Repatriation General Hospital, gave a bible reading.

In this, the centenary year of the founding of the Anzac tradition, it was fitting that a former distinguished soldier and now Governor of NSW, His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd.) should deliver the Anzac Address. Since becoming the 38th Governor of NSW last year, he has become a patron of the Walkway.

His Excellency began by acknowledging the indigenous community and the part they have played in serving Australia during times of conflict. He said the Anzac Centenary offered not only a time of reflection but a contemporary guide for living in the present, and the future, as the spirit of Anzac embodies courage, mateship, volunteering, sacrifice and service.

The Governor said that the Anzac approach can be simply put as, "Give us a job and we will attempt it - succeed or fail - we will give it our best. We will perform in a manner that will make you proud, placing our mates first, above self, and when back home in Australia, continue with that sentiment."

This legacy of how we view ourselves, the Governor reflected, has held a powerful sway over the development of our nation during the past 100 years. The 25th April 1915 changed the country forever because it changed the men and women who returned. Many were wounded and shattered, carrying the significant weight of their experiences. It changed the women, for as His Excellency pointed out, they had the burden of raising families without loved ones. Children grew up without fathers or with fathers who were present physically but not in spirit.

The Governor then raised the question of what the Anzac tradition means for the present and for subsequent generations. We are a land of many people he said, from many cultures, religions, traditions and beliefs. Our historical legacy needs to speak to all Australians in the present world, a world so different from the long-past days of empires. The Governor suggested that the spirit of the Anzacs' can be honoured by adhering to their values from a personal to a national level. Good foundations arose from our First World War service men and women supporting each other; the strong supporting the weak, the fit supporting the wounded, and on many occasions individuals sacrificing their lives for others.

dawn service musicIn speaking of the importance of community and remembrance of all conflicts, His Excellency made mention of those representing four generations of Robert Oswald Ball's family at the Dawn Service. Bob Ball was a World War II soldier and a poet. His moving words form part of composer Elena Kats-Chernin "Meeting the Sun", a musical tribute whose world premier was performed following the Governor's address.

The Anzac Address concluded with the Governor remarking that the Anzac legacy might, "Inspire us to continue to find our common humanity, and a common ground on which we all tread. We can honour the Anzac's service by building a country of which we can all be proud - a compassionate, fair and inclusive country, and may this inspire us to seek peace. Lest We Forget."

Those attending then had the pleasure and privilege of listening to the inaugural live performance of "Meeting the Sun", a moving musical work performed by the Sydney Children's Choir, accompanied by Royal Australian Navy Band.

In the early light of the new day, the emotion imbued musical power of this important composition in five movements by renowned Australian composer, Elena Kats-Chernin, was further strengthened by the words of two ordinary Australian diggers; Carl Wilbur Baker from the First World War, and Robert Oswald Ball who served in the Second World War. Our highly respected adversary at Gallipoli, and the father of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's famous lines which recognised the Anzac dead as, "lying in our bosom and in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well", added further meaning to the score.

Appropriately, the work concluded with the elements from the Last Post - that pure emotional note from a bugle providing a final farewell, and symbolising that the duty of the dead is over and that they can now rest in peace.

Wreaths were laid at the Walkway's Memorial Centrepiece by various dignitaries, including His Excellency the Governor of NSW, representatives of all three levels of government, the three armed forces, as well as embassy officials and citizens representing various countries. The Ode was then recited followed by one minute's silence. The Last Post and Reveille were sounded by a bugler from the RAN.

dawn service doves100 white doves, symbols of peace, and one for each year since Gallipoli, were released by Walkway Board member, Mr Peter Woods, President of the 7th Division Association, Mr Dick Payten, Father Hetherington from Papua New Guinea, and Murathan Atak, a Rotary Exchange student from Ankara, Turkey.

During the course of the service, prayers were led by Fr. Graeme Malone SSS and the Rev. Paul Weaver. Mr John Gatfield was Master of Ceremonies.

Following the dismounting of the Catafalque Party, dignitaries and many of those attending the Service, moved through the Walkway to plant individual red poppies into the giant petals of a large poppy arrangement.

The morning concluded with a sit down breakfast for dignitaries at Oliveto Restaurant where various presentations and votes of thanks were made. Rotary provided refreshments on the grounds, and many organisations, including the SES, NSW Police, The RSL Corps of Guards, provided invaluable support.

John K. Wright PSM

Board member (Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway)