Heathdale flower 26th April 2024

Lessons Learnt in Sacrifice and Unity

Explore the profound lessons of sacrifice and unity from World War II as we reflect on our school's ANZAC Day ceremony, drawing parallels to our school community and the enduring legacy of those who fought for our freedom.

Heathdale flower

On Wednesday we gathered for our ANZAC Day ceremony to commemorate the remarkable sacrifice across many wars and theatres of peacekeeping made by many Australian men and women.

It is also a day when we commemorate simultaneously both the horrors of war and the courage that men and women have shown in order to defend our way of life and democracy from tyranny and evil.

In my remarks, I focused on the significance of World War II and how we can draw from perspective for our school from this week's commemoration. This seems to me a most appropriate purpose for reflection, for those who sacrificed life and health did so for future generations like us.

World War II is the singularly most destructive war in the history of man with an average of 40 to 50 million deaths around the world.

It is estimated that over 91 countries were involved and affected by the conflict between 1939 and 1945. As we sit here and consider the heritage of our individual families, I am sure that almost nobody has a heritage unaffected by the atrocities, conflict and displacement of that time. Even with my emerging knowledge of who we are as a people within a school community, I note that the conflict raged in Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Brazil, India, the Philippines, Malaysia, Egypt, Nigeria Mauritius, Nepal, Japan Papua New Guinea, the Sudan, New Zealand and all of the European continent from the western coast of France to The eastern coast of Russia. Even countries that declared themselves neutral for the conflict, like Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal and Ireland were embroiled in political intrigue an internal conflict. It seems that almost nowhere in the world was untouched from the impact of this war.

What are the lessons that we as a school community can draw from this extraordinary period of sacrifice?

Firstly, that some things are worth fighting for.

Secondly, at the conclusion of this horrendous conflict there was a period of extraordinary political and Economic Cooperation which saw those countries within the allies employing extraordinary efforts to rebuild the countries that they had just defeated. The United States placed an extraordinary emphasis into rebuilding Japan. The allies not content with simply rebuilding their own countries from devastation worked deliberately to rebuild Germany. It should not be lost on us that countries who fought a bitter war between 1939 and 1945 are now allies. NATO was established to ensure that such conflict would not occur again within Europe. In Australia we count Japan as an important ally.

While some things are indeed worth fighting for, an important legacy of this conflict is that we can move beyond living lives of division and aggression and on the other side of conflict there can be unity.

This spirit is epitomised in the words to Australian Mothers by Kemal Ataturk at the close of World War One. Ataturk who, as a Lieutenant Colonel, commanded the Ottoman 19th Infantry Division when it resisted the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) at Arı Burnu on the Gallipoli peninsula in 1915 during World War I.

Kemal Ataturk said, "Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives... you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore, rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours... You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well."

We can learn a great many things from our history of warfare; lessons that should be applied to this time and this school.

I would suggest that we are beholden to remember the sacrifices.

As a Christian community we naturally revere the sacrifice of Christ for us. “It was for freedom that He set us free.” (Galatians 5:1)

Those who died in trenches, at sea, in the air, of their wounds in hospital, as prisoners in camps, they all died for the freedom that we live in now.

We are beholden to remember. That is why we say: “Lest We Forget.”