Millions of Australians have gathered at Anzac Day dawn services across the country to pay tribute to servicemen and women in the first time most Aussies have been able to gather since the pandemic began.
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 1.
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.
The Last Post is played in Sydney’s Martin Place, where thousands gathered for the Anzac Day dawn service
Melburnians braved chilly conditions at the Shrine of Remembrance at Monday’s service
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 Melbourne, crowds braved the chilly conditions to pay their respects to the fallen at the Shrine of Remembrance.
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.
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.
A member of the Australian Defence Force stands guard during Anzac Day commemorations at the Cenotaph 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