Observing Anzac Day 2021

Anzac Day can be a time of heightened emotions for the defence and veteran communities, and this past year has presented more challenges than most. The floods, bushfires, COVID-19 pandemic and release of the IGADF Afghanistan report have all impacted our lives in some way.

Service in the ADF provides us with unique challenges, but also opportunities to learn first-hand the importance of resilience, mateship and compassion, and other skills we can use to strengthen our own wellbeing and to assist others in difficult times.

Anzac Day can be a powerful and emotional occasion and it is important to acknowledge these emotions. Allow yourself to observe the different thoughts, feelings and memories that the day brings up for you. 

Use our self-help tools for some helpful controlled breathing and relaxation exercises if you are finding things challenging. The quick grounding tool can be used ‘on-the-go’ to help stop unhelpful thoughts and feelings.

Other ways to protect your mental health and wellbeing on Anzac Day include:

  • staying connected to friends, family and community
  • using exercise as a quick and effective way to distract yourself from negative thoughts and manage emotions
  • sleeping well
  • eating well
  • balancing exposure to media and focusing on content that does not make you distressed or angry
  • avoiding activities that can compound negative feelings such as excessive alcohol

Anzac Day is a significant day on our calendar. It is a time for Australians to reflect, remember and give thanks to all members of the Australian Defence Force who have served our nation, in both war and peacetime. In particular, those who gave their lives or their health, in various conflicts, operations and peacekeeping roles across the world.

The traditions and rituals we associate with Anzac Day – dawn vigils, marches, memorial services, reunions, two-up games – became part of how we remembered and paid our respects in the mid-1930s. These traditions and rituals can help us to reflect on, and process our experiences, and help connect us to our past and to each other.

The pandemic changed the way we commemorated Anzac Day last year, and it is important to recognise that this year is going to be different again. The 2021 services at Gallipoli in Turkey and near Villers-Bretonneux in France have been cancelled, and the Dawn Service and National Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial will be a ticketed event.

As arrangements for local services and marches will differ from state to state, and updates or changes could happen at any time, please check with your local RSL for the latest details. The spirit of Anzac was built off the back of mateship, so be sure also to check in with your mates. We encourage all veterans and their family members to #Check5 by checking in with five people in their lives.

Remembrance and commemoration can take many forms. Some people may feel a stronger sense of connection by engaging in smaller, more intimate and personal activities. Others might feel a sense of loss if they are unable to participate in the more traditional approaches to remembrance and commemoration.

There are also many reasons why you, or someone you know, may choose not to participate at all, and that is perfectly fine. It is important to do what feels right and is meaningful for you.

For those who choose to observe the day at home, options could include:

  • watch the televised national service. Ceremonies will be broadcast live across Australia by the ABC and online from 5am AEST
  • read about the history of Anzac Day from the free eBooks on the Australian War Memorial website
  • view the resources on the DVA Anzac Portal
  • bake some Anzac biscuits from a traditional recipe
  • wear a sprig of Rosemary as an emblem of remembrance. This has particular significance on Anzac Day because it has been found growing wild on the Gallipoli Peninsula
  • consume a ‘gunfire breakfast’ traditionally comprised of whatever is available at the time—or the ever popular ‘bacon and eggs’
  • wear your medals or those of a relative. Only the person awarded or issued medals may claim those medals as his or her own. He or she wears the medals on their left breast. Others (those who did not earn the medals) may honour the service of a relative by wearing medals on the right breast
  • lay a wreath or flowers. A wreath or a small bunch of flowers is traditionally laid on memorials or graves in memory of the dead. They might contain laurel, a traditional symbol of honour, and rosemary, or they may be native or other flowers such as poppies
  • craft your own poppies and wreaths and display these on your front door. Follow others doing the same on Instagram and Facebook
  • musicians can learn to play the Last Post and offer your services to local aged care facilities

If you or someone you know needs some extra support, please contact us 24/7 on 1800 011 046. Open Arms is here to help.

We also host Safe Zone Support, which offers anonymous and free support with specialised counsellors who have an understanding of military culture.Safe Zone Support is available 24/7 on 1800 142 072 and calls are not recorded.

Throughout these challenges, the Anzac qualities of loyalty, resilience, teamwork, leadership, personal integrity, sacrifice and respect remain.

The Australian community remains very grateful for your service on Anzac Day and on every other day.

Lest we forget