How the War Memorial got its Canberra Anzac dawn service crowd numbers
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How the War Memorial got its Canberra Anzac dawn service crowd numbers

More than 100,000 people are said to have stood outside the Australian War Memorial at dawn on Anzac Day, 100 years after the Diggers landed at Gallipoli.

But how was the official crowd figure of 128,700 - enough people to fill more than five Canberra Stadiums at full capacity of 25,000 people - actually counted?

The crowd at the Anzac Day Dawn Service at the Australian War Memorial.

The crowd at the Anzac Day Dawn Service at the Australian War Memorial.

Photo: Graham Tidy

The Australian War Memorial didn't count all the heads there in the dark, instead using a combination of methods. takes about 100,000 people

A war memorial spokesman said staff were given a colour-coded bird's-eye map of the memorial, surrounding space to the left and right of the building, and Anzac Parade. Each was allocated a section, and they manually counted the number of people packed in that area.

A girl holds a candle at the Anzac Day dawn service.

A girl holds a candle at the Anzac Day dawn service.

Photo: Graham Tidy
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A "metrics key" was also used to guess how many people had squeezed into each square metre of space.

The top end of Anzac Parade, for example, was predicted to hold a tightly packed four people per square metre, while the space tucked behind the western seating was believed to fill two people per square metre.

Roving volunteers used this "metrics methodology" for all areas except seated spaces, which were pre-counted. The number of empty seats - if there were any left - were also checked.

The whopping raw figure of 143,355 was scaled back to allow for a 10 per cent margin of error and neatly rounded to the final official number of 128,700.

Anzac Parade alone hosted 39,864, according to the raw count.

Another 18,219 were counted in the Sculpture Garden and 15,142 just on the west lawn.

While some have questioned the accuracy of the count and suggested there were fewer people at the dawn service, assistant director of public programs Anne Bennie said the "the memorial stands by its count and the methodologies used to reach the official figure".

"This figure was reached using a combination of strategies: seating pre-counts, a metrics methodology [calculating population density by area occupied] and manual counting," she said.

"Raw figures were higher but were adjusted by 10 per cent to allow for a margin of error and to ensure the official figure is the most conservative one.

"Factors such as low light, variance in individual count methods, and the transient nature of crowds moving across the site were all taken into account."

Police, who often give estimates of crowds at public events, would not provide their own number.

An ACT Policing spokesman said police did not release crowd estimates when an official figure was determined by the event organiser, like the memorial.

The official figure was more than double the 50,000 people memorial director Dr Brendan Nelson expected to turn out for the dawn ceremony.

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Ms Bennie said the same

Emma Kelly

Emma Kelly is Canberra Times reporter.

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