JULIA GILLARD says Anzac Day has grown beyond its military roots to represent all the nation embodies and it has become more significant than Australia Day, both emotionally and in terms of the values it represents.
After addressing the dawn service at Gallipoli yesterday, the Prime Minister said Anzac Day had "organically grown into what it is'' and had meaning for all Australians, including migrants such as herself.
"It wasn't forced at the start - we didn't have Anzac Day created by an act of Parliament or because a prime minister or a premier had a bright idea.
Dawn service … the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, at Gallipoli yesterday. Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith, VC, stands behind her, saluting. Photo: AFP
"That organic sense of growth has taken us to a new place with Anzac Day.''
The Prime Minister, who spoke at the dawn service at Gallipoli, was backed in her assessment by the nation's most senior Catholic figure, Cardinal George Pell, and war hero Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith, both of whom attended the service at Gallipoli.
Corporal Roberts-Smith, who won the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan and had four relatives at Gallipoli in 1915, said "the connection with the military will always be there for obvious reasons. But more importantly it's about the founding of our Australian values and our Aussie spirit.
Anzac Day: Sydney Parade
Anzac Day Parade 2012. Current and former service men and women march down George street in Sydney as part of the annual parade to commemorate Anzac Day. The event attracted thousands of people who turned out to watch the parade. Photo: Anthony Johnson
"You can't compare war and sport but what you can compare is what's inside Australians.''
Cardinal Pell, who along with 40 Catholic school teachers is in Turkey retracing the steps of St Paul, said Anzac Day represents for many more people, especially younger people, "the legend of Australia''. He said it stands for "a devotion to duty and a preparedness to put yourself on the line for what you believe is a good cause''.
Cardinal Pell said Anzac Day, being a day of redemptive sacrifice, had improved the standing of his church. "I don't think a country without deep Christian roots can make a national day out of a defeat,'' he said.
Ms Gillard, a Welsh migrant, said Anzac Day struck a deeper emotional chord than Australia Day, the January 26 holiday that celebrates the arrival of the First Fleet, and represented "for all Australians'' the deepest of Australian values such as mateship, good humour, endurance and bravery.
She had earlier told the estimated 7000 people gathered above Anzac Cove that the significance of the day applied "not just to those who trace their origins to the early settlers but those, like me, who are migrants and who freely embrace the whole of the Australian story as their own''.
"All of us remember, because all of us inhabit the freedom the Anzacs won for us.''
It was Ms Gillard's first visit to Gallipoli and she was the senior dignitary at an event held under perfectly clear skies, alongside a calm sea and in unseasonably warm weather.
The crowd, consisting mainly of Australian and New Zealand backpackers, began filing to the site early Tuesday evening and was silent and respectful throughout the event.
Among them were Bill Vahland and his son Ben, both wearing medals. Ben earned his serving in East Timor in 1999. Bill was wearing those of his uncle Charles, who was taken prisoner by the Japanese when Singapore fell in 1942 and beheaded in captivity.
Both men have visited war sites across the globe, from Kranji in Singapore, where Charles is buried, to Normandy and the Western Front.
"This is the ultimate,'' said Ben, as he gestured over the crowd and across Anzac Cove.
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