Australians have gathered at Anzac Day dawn services across the country to pay tribute to servicemen and women for the first time in big numbers since the Covid pandemic began in 2020.
The moving ceremonies kicked off a day of commemorations 107 years after the Australian and New Zealand forces landed on the shores of Gallipoli during World War I.
This year sees the return of full scale Anzac Day commemorations since 2019 in the wake of Covid-19 restrictions in recent years. It is also the first ceremony to be held since Australia and the US-led Coalition withdrew soldiers from Afghanistan.
Australians gathered at Currumbin on the Gold Coast, Martin Place in Sydney, Melbourne‘s Shrine of Remembrance, the Cenotaph in Brisbane and the Australian War Memorial in Canberra from 4.30am on Monday – as well as at ceremonies across the nation.
However, not everything went to plan.
In Sydney’s eastern suburbs, a massive crowd at the North Bondi were left shocked after a serviceman made a awkward slip-up, not realising his microphone was still on.
Shortly after the minute’s silence, the serviceman at the podium was heard muttering ‘what the f** kids.’
While it wasn’t immediately clear what prompted the outburst, his comment came just moments before a children’s choir from Bondi Beach Public School performed the New Zealand and Australian national anthems from the balcony of the RSL.
The accidental slip-up was caught on microphone towards the end of the 75 minute service was heard by many in the crowd and on video posted on the North Bondi RSL sub-branch Facebook page, which remained online for several hours.
A serviceman (pictured) leading the North Bondi dawn service uttered an expletive heard by many in the crowd, not realising his microphone was still turned on
A children’s choir performed the New Zealand and Australian anthems moments after the slip-up
‘It was heard by most people who were there,’ one attendee told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Everyone was in shock. It was just a slip-up. I think he was just frustrated about the time it was taking.’
Online viewers also picked up the gaffe.
‘Lovely service, minus the swearing from a service person,’ one woman wrote.
The video has since been taken down.
Mortified North Bondi sub-branch officials have acknowledged the incident was unfortunate in what was otherwise a beautiful and inclusive service.
They also stressed the serviceman’s comment wasn’t directed at the children but plan to apologise to the school if any offence was caused.
‘There was a problem with the sequencing of the service and the children’s choir wasn’t ready at the time, which resulted in a lengthy pregnant pause,’ secretary Jack Gray told Daily Mail Australia.
‘The service was about inclusiveness, which is why the children were there.
‘It’s important the community doesn’t see the service as a pile-on about veterans remembering the past as it’s about the both past and the future.’
‘It was unfortunate but what was said wasn’t meant to be derogatory towards the kids. It was out in frustration about the order of the service.
‘Anything that was said wasn’t meant to demean or diminish the children, it was said out of exasperation.’
Two servicemen on stage had their microphones turned on at the time.
‘I’m yet to find out what actually was said and who said what but both men are committed in serving both their country and community,’ Mr Gray added.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison led commemorations in Darwin, where he used his address to warn Australians of a ‘changing of the world’ amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and China’s new security pact with Solomon Islands.
‘War does strike Europe again, coercion troubles our region once more, an arc of autocracy is challenging the rules-based order our grandparents secured and democratic free peoples are standing together again,’ the Prime Minister said.
‘In facing this world, we must remember again, it is only then we truly appreciate what these times require of us all.’
The Last Post is played in Sydney’s Martin Place, where thousands gathered for the Anzac Day dawn service
On the Gold Coast, Australians of all ages packed Currumbin’s foreshore to commemorate Anzac Day
Past and present servicemen were among the large crowds at a dawn service in Currumbin
For many veterans in attendance, it was the first dawn service they’ve been to since 2019. Pictured are war veterans at the Currumbin dawn service
Massive crowds packed the North Bondi foreshore to commemorate Anzac Day
A man pays his respects to servicemen and women at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance
50,000 Melburnians braved chilly conditions at the Shrine of Remembrance on Monday
In Darwin, Prime Minister Scott Morrison mingled with locals after delivering a poignant Anzac Day address
He reminded Australians they are one and free because of the sacrifices of servicemen and women who fought for their country as he reiterated the nation’s united stance with Ukraine.
‘To veterans and all serving Australians with us today, we owe a debt and sense of gratitude that we can never express fully enough,’ he said.
‘We gather at this dawn to remember, to reflect and rededicate ourselves.’
‘As General Jim Molan, our colleague in the Parliament, who said ‘it takes a nation to defend a nation’.
‘And what ultimately matters in that task is a people with a fierce and protective love of their nation and their liberty. A love of home, family, community and country.
‘A willingness to live for all of these things that are necessary to sacrifice for something far greater than themselves.
This morning far away from here, the people of Ukraine are doing exactly that. And on this particular day, as we honour those who fought for our liberty and freedom, we stand with the people of Ukraine who do the same thing at this very moment.’
He happily mingled and posed for photos with Darwin locals after the dawn service as he entered the third week of the federal election campaign.
Isolating at his Sydney home with Covid, federal Opposition Leader Mr Albanese delivered his Anzac Day address in a video message.
He said the Australian character was confirmed at Gallipoli and since then Australians had ‘stood steadfast as warriors and as builders and keepers of the peace’.
‘Yet as the war in Ukraine so tragically reminds us, darkness is not vanquished from the world,’ he said.
‘It reminds us freedom cannot be taken for granted. It reminds us that freedom isn’t free.’
Across the Tasman, thousands of Kiwis joined New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for a service at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
Gallipoli, the site of the Australia’s most disastrous wartime endeavour, has also welcomed back thousands of Australians and Kiwis for the first time since 2019.
In Sydney, thousands braved the rain to fill Martin Place to capacity for the solemn service which marked the 95th anniversary of the first dawn service held there.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet attended with two of his seven children and led commemorations by reciting the poem Salute, penned by Sydney Elliott Napier, who served with the First Australian Imperial Force during World War I.
He was joined by state opposition leader Chris Minns and federal Opposition frontbencher Tanya Plibersek.
Major General Matthew Pearse reminded the crowd of a number of significant anniversaries in 2022.
They include the 80th anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin, the Fall of Singapore, the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Kokoda campaign.
2022 also marks 60 years since Australia’s first involvement in the Vietnam War.
He added it was a day to give thanks for all veterans ‘for their service, their sacrifice and their resilience’.
‘They’re filled with stories of ordinary Australians who pulled together despite adversity to support their mates and put their lives on the line to defend our national interests and secure a brighter future,’ the commander of Forces Command said.
Thousands more gathered at local dawn services across the city, including massive crowds at North Bondi.
An ADF servicewoman pays her respect to fallen servicemen and women at Sydney’s service
In Martin Place, Sydneysiders were reminded of a number of significant anniversaries in 2022
The rain didn’t put a dampener on Sydney’s dawn service at a packed Martin Place
There were similar scenes at dawn services across Sydney, including North Bondi (pictured)
The eternal flame was lit as Melburnians paid their their respects at the Shrine of Remembrance
Hundreds of young families on the Gold Coast gathered at the Currumbin foreshore to commemorate Anzac Day
Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured with locals) commemorated Anzac Day in Darwin on day 15 of the election camapign
Thousands also braved the rain on the Gold Coast as they gathered on the Currumbin foreshore to pay their respects.
There were similar scenes in Melbourne, where 50,000 braved the chilly conditions to pay their respects to the fallen at the Shrine of Remembrance.
It was the biggest crowd there since the centenary of Gallipoli in 2015.
RSL Victoria state president Robert Webster expected numbers to be slightly down on pre-pandemic crowds due to the long weekend and school holidays.
‘But one of the messages that we’ve been giving to the broader community is that we’ve got 270-odd sub-branches across the state, most of whom will be running a dawn service or a local march,’ he told AAP.
‘So go local.’
Dr Webster said Covid restrictions in recent years was hard on veterans who see Anzac Day as a time to reflect and catch up with mates.
The traditional Anzac Day march is already underway in Melbourne, the first one since 2019 without Covid restrictions
A Sydneysider quietly reflects to pay tribute to fallen servicemen and women on Anzac Day
Monday marks 107 years after the Australian and New Zealand forces landed on the shores of Gallipoli during World War I. Pictured are Sydneysiders in Martin Place
Veterans were joined by thousands of Sydneysiders in Martin Place, despite the rain
Veterans rose early to take their seat in Martin Place, many for the first time since 2019
Big crowds are expected at Anzac Day marches will be held in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra later on Monday morning.
Governor-General David Hurley will deliver an address to the nation from the Australian War Memorial in Canberra following the march.
This year marks the 80th anniversary of Anzac Day commemorations at the memorial.
NSW has temporarily lifted the ban to allow two-up to be legally played in pubs, clubs, and elsewhere across the entire three-day Anzac Day long weekend.
The one-off aims to give back to veterans who missed out during the Covid-19 pandemic at the biggest Anzac Day commemoration since 2019.
Australian soldiers regularly played the coin toss betting game in trenches and on troopships during World War I, after it was originally played by immigrants and convicts in the 1850s goldfields.
The game involves a designated ‘spinner’ who throws two coins or pennies into the air as players bet on whether the coins will land on heads or tails.
A member of the Australian Defence Force stands guard during Anzac Day commemorations at the Cenotaph in Brisbane
Australians have paid tribute at dawn services across the country. Pictured is soldier standing guard in Brisbane
Commemorations were restricted to televised services only and no marches for the first time in more than a century in 2020 due to onset of Covid, where thousands paid their respects at home in driveway dawn commemorations.
Services and marches returned with limited crowds in most parts of the country in 2021, except for Perth and the surrounding Peel region which were plunged into a snap lockdown sparked by a hotel quarantine outbreak.
Monday is the first Anzac Day since forces withdrew from Afghanistan, where 41 Australians died in service.
Veterans’ Affairs Minister Andrew Gee said the number of lives saved and terrorist attacks prevented by Australian defence personnel could never be known.
But what is known is that they improved medical services, built critical infrastructure and helped a generation of women and girls access education and build careers.
‘The men and women who’ve served our nation through the generations have never asked for much in return,’ Mr Gee said.
‘In the end it comes down to one thing: that we never forget what they have done for us. That we keep their memory alive in our hearts and in the consciousness of our nation.
‘That sacred duty of remembrance currently rests with our generation and it is a commitment that we will in turn pass onto the next.’
Anzac Day commemorations are back to full capacity for the first time in three years
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern led the the country’s Anzac Day commemorations at the Auckland War Memorial Museum
Federal election campaigning will take a back seat to Anzac Day commemorations.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Labor deputy leader Richard Marles will be in Darwin for services, as Labor leader Anthony Albanese remains in isolation at his Sydney home as he recovers from COVID-19.
Overseas, Anzac services will take place in Turkey, France, Thailand, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.
‘No matter how you mark Anzac Day this year – at a dawn service, at your own home, at your local RSL, or watching the national service on television – I encourage all Australians to pause and reflect on all those who have served, and those who continue to serve,’ Mr Gee said
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet was joined by two of his children at the Sydney dawn service
Opposition frontbencher Tanya Plibersek placed a wreath during the dawn service in Sydney’s Martin Place