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Honouring peace and sacrifice - Armistice Day Centennary

War Memorial Poppies2

Eighteen years into the twenty-first century; on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month... 

I stand on the most prominent natural feature in our capital, first inhabited by the Ngunnawal people, the traditional owners of this land. Mount Ainslie's geographical position is very special, due to the symbolic and meticulous design of Canberra.

In the distance on the hill, the most democratically significant structure in this country, Australian Parliament House. The history of this place is visibly represented in the foreground by Old Parliament House, the first place of Australian democracy in our capital. 

But in history, celebrations of success and symbols of national prosperity are often coloured or shadowed by pain and sacrifice. Reconciliation Place lies directly before OPH, and reaffirms Australia's shared history and commitment to Reconciliation as a national priority. 

Lake Burley Griffin serves as a natural break in the landscape and protecting the Parliamentary Triangle is symbolic of Australia being "girt by sea". It represents the geo-political privilege for which we can afford to engage in democratic instability by virtue of our remote position in our region. Our political instability is figuratively and literally guarded by a wall of air and sea.

But across the opposing shore is our starkest reminder of our national sacrifice; ANZAC Parade. This avenue of courage and sacrifice is uninhibited by structures or embellishment. It is a grand way lined with the memorials of our services and the conflicts they fought in. Standing solemnly before them, is the Australian War Memorial and the mosiac dome of the Hall of Memory, which houses the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier.

On this Remembrance Day, 100 years after Armistice; I reflect on the proud 40,000 year history of our nation, the men and women who fought bravely to protect it, and to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. 

The ANZAC spirit lives strongly. It lies in those who serve or have served. It lies in emergency services who attended the Bourke Street incident, and the man who improvised with a trolley to protect them. It lies in the volunteers who handcrafted 62,000 poppies that are visible at the War Memorial and the lawns of Parliament House. It lies in ordinary Australians who paused to observe a minute silence today, as they go about their daily lives. It lies in those passionate about delivering a fair go to all Australians; including women, indigenous people, the LGBTI community, and many more. 

To those who can no longer see the relevance of the Great War in our modern life, that is your prerogative. Just know that your liberty to do so is the collective work and sacrifice of 100 years of democracy and public or national service. Here in our National's capital, the visual and symbolic reminders are impossible to ignore.

Lest We Forget.

Image by James Smith for DEFGLIS

About the Author
Author: Nathan White
Nathan White is a Pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force, and Vice-President of the Defence LGBTI Information Service.

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