The Anzac spirit continues to resonate today in the fight for peace, equality and acceptance of diversity, according to Hornsby Girls High School Year 12 student Sophie Shead.
Sophie made the claim as part of her Anzac Address to the RSL and Schools Remember Anzac Commemoration Service in Sydney’s Hyde Park yesterday.
More than 1,500 school students from the government and non-government sectors paid tribute to our service men and women as part of the annual service at the Anzac Memorial in Sydney.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Education Minister Rob Stokes were among the more than 150 special guests who attended the event.
Sophie, whose paternal great-grandfathers served during World War II as a chaplain and a sapper, told the gathering this year’s Anzac Day held special significance as it marked 100 years since the end of World War I.
She reminded the gathering the Armistice was delayed by five hours to have maximum symbolic impact - so as to fall exactly on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
But ultimately, she added “the Armistice is a symbol whose power derives from the lives and deaths of those who fought in war, for peace”.
“And it is thanks to them - our parents and grandparents, our siblings, our neighbours and our fellow Australians - that out of the evil of war came so much that is good about contemporary Australia, things indomitably optimistic - whether real or legend,” Sophie said.
However she warned the spirit of the original Anzacs was under threat with the march of time allowing cynicism about and a false romanticism of the era to grow.
“[Over time] it becomes easy to spout truisms, and to disengage … from suffering that often feels too great or too alien to ever understand,” Sophie said.
“And with those truisms arises a far greater danger – that we lose the Anzac spirit needed to fight for contemporary peace; for equality, for the embrace of difference, for the protection of the weak, the wounded and the alien in our midst.”
The RSL and Schools Remember Anzac Ceremony has been held for more than 60 years and is conducted by students, for students. This year James Ruse Agricultural High School Cadet Unit provided the guard with performances by the Sydney Catholic Schools Performing Arts Orchestra and choir.
Sophie said she was excited, but a little daunted by being asked to speak at the prestigious event.
"I think Anzac Day is such an interesting and important cultural phenomenon and I was so grateful to have been lucky enough to speak about it," she said.
Secretary of the Department of Education, Mark Scott joined the service and laid one of the more than 100 wreaths on the cenotaph steps as part of the ceremony.