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What commemorative day is considered one of the most important public holidays for Australians and New Zealanders?

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As former British colonies, Australia and New Zealand have a shared history of memorials and commemoration as many of their military leaders were either British or British-trained. Their relationship was further strengthened during the Great War with the creation of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) that fought at Gallipoli, Turkey. For Australians and New Zealanders, 25 April or Anzac Day is considered one of the most important spiritual and solemn days of the year as this day marks the anniversary of their first major military action fought at the Gallipoli Peninsula against the Ottoman Empire on 25 April 1915. Although one of the first public recognition of Anzac Day was held in Sydney, Australia, on Tuesday, 25 April 1916, it has been a common feature since the 1920s to commemorate the 60,000 Australians and 18,000 New Zealanders killed in war and also honours returned servicemen and women. Certainly not without controversies, there have been a wide range of veterans' gatherings, commemoration events and ceremonies held in cities and towns throughout Australia and New Zealand, in Turkey, as well as in countries whose soldiers participated in the campaign. This includes the former British dominion of Newfoundland (which later joined Canada in 1949) which contributed more than 1,000 soldiers from the Newfoundland Regiment who arrived along the shores of the Dardanelles Straight on 20 September 1915 and fought at Gallipoli for almost four months.

At times, public memorials are erected to demonstrate friendship or celebrate a co-operative relationship. The continued existence of such memorials are customarily dependent on the resilience of the comradeship. One example of a 'friendship memorial' is 'The New Zealand Memorial' located in Australia's capital city. In 1995, New Zealand accepted an invitation from the Australian government to build a memorial to commemorate the "unique friendship" between these two countries. Located on Canberra's prestigious ceremonial avenue - Anzac Parade - the memorial takes the form of two bronze arches, each representing the handles of a flax 'basket'. Based on the Māori proverb "each of us at a handle of the basket", the handles "express the shared effort needed to achieve common goals in both peace and war, and to acknowledge the courage and sacrifice of the servicemen and women of both countries who fought shoulder to shoulder on foreign soil." The memorial straddles both sides of Anzac Parade with one handle representing Australia and the other New Zealand. Although from afar the structures may appear to be similar, they are individually designed to emphasize each country's respective indigenous motifs. As a means of highlighting the birthplace of the Anzac tradition, soil from Gallipoli is buried in the centre of each paved area. This friendship memorial expresses a wide sense of remembrance - that of a "shared history, values and memories, and our common endeavours and sacrifices, in peace and in war." In this case, the incorporation of national and cultural visual elements into the memorial played an important role in exhibiting a collective memory while at the same time maintaining independent identities for both Australia and New Zealand. The New Zealand Memorial is a gift from the People of New Zealand to the People of Australia to mark the centenary of Australian Federation and was unveiled by the Right Honourable Helen Clark, M.P., Prime Minister of New Zealand and the Honourable John Howard, M.P., Prime Minister of Australia on 24 April 2001. Shown in the photograph is the Western (Australian) side of the memorial.

On this day, 25 April 2022, we commemorate the 107th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign, mark the 21st anniversary of the unveiling of The New Zealand Memorial in Canberra, Australia, and recognize it as Anzac Day.

André M. Levesque

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