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Our Anzac remembrance practices emerged from Christian thinking and liturgy. Early Anzac ceremonies were based on Anglican forms, and distinctive commemorative components such as laying wreaths at memorials and pausing in silence, as well as the unique Australian ‘dawn service’ tradition, have their antecedents in religious customs and civic rites of the time.
Belief in Australia in the 1910s and 1920s remained predominantly Christian, and in practice largely Anglican, and so it is not surprising that Anglican clergy played a significant role in developing this Anzac legacy, a contribution which has heretofore received scant acknowledgement in academic and popular commentary. Despite Australia’s citizenry today being multicultural and increasingly secular, Anzac liturgical forms have undergone little change in more than one hundred years. The First World War Centenary provides timely opportunity to reconsider the influence of Christianity on the development of Anzac Day.
Darren Mitchell is undertaking doctoral studies in the University of Sydney’s Department of History researching Anzac commemoration liturgy, and in particular, the Christian influence on early Anzac remembrance practice.