2014 – 2018 marks the 100 year period of The Great War, and this year my family flew down to Canberra to take part in the ANZAC Dawn Service.
Going to Canberra as an adult let me appreciate it more; the galleries and museums did a good job showcasing Australia’s culture (yes, we have CULTURE) and kept us coming back for seconds. The Portrait Gallery was one of my favourites; I was mesmerised by a portrait of Deborah Mailman hanging on a stand-alone wall, right in sight of the first room’s entryway.
The Australian War Memorial was a favourite of our last visit, and it certainly didn’t disappoint the second time around. The building has since gotten an update with its exhibits and we literally spent the whole day there. It showed Australian combat history through the ages: dioramas, uniforms, weapons, wax figures and even sculptures told stories alongside the information cards stuck on the walls next to them. There was a lot to explore, and just as much to take in. By the end of our second visit we felt as flat as pancakes AFTER a tank rolled over them.
The Dawn Service itself didn’t leave us wanting, either. The early rise was worth it (3:45am!) but speeches by returned veterans, some with missing limbs, humbled us to the core. The battle at ANZAC Cove was a lost cause, but the mateship and spirit that formed there has lasted in the hundred years since.
Canberra is Australia’s official capital city, home to politicians, Parliament and government organisations. This to some might impart an image of glamour; to me it didn’t so much. After reading Joe Cinque’s Consolation by Helen Garner, it woke me up to how drugs were readily available in the city. Its effects were very visible on the people who lived there. New apartments and old, tumbledown complexes with sheeting for curtains stood stark next to each other; the contrast between the “haves” and the “have-nots” literally lined the roads.
We also noted the quietness in the streets, even during weekdays. People certainly live in Canberra, but not all make their lives there. Going back to Canberra was a great experience and it made me realise how lucky my family was. Lucky to live freely thanks to the sacrifices of others, and lucky to live in a city where you feel like you’re home.