The History of Anzac Day is More Complicated Than You Might Think

Anzac Day has not always been as revered as it is today – and only a generation ago, the day’s popularity was actually declining. 

While the mythology of the birth of a nation on the beaches at Gallipoli is now accepted, it’s not always been the case. 

“Anzac Day has always been a little bit cyclical,” Anzac historian Mat McLachlan told The Briefing podcast. 

“Immediately after the First World War, it was very much for veterans and almost to the exclusion of everyone else. And I’ve read accounts from family members who actually felt quite excluded on Anzac Day, that Anzac Day was a day for veterans to go and catch up with their mates.”

“The nature of Anzac Day began to change after the Second World War, it became a much broader because now it was commemorating two wars. It was commemorating a lot, many more, people in the community than previously.”

The enthusiasm for the day waned, particularly during the Vietnam War, it was during the early 90s the day experienced a resurgence. 

“I mean, it’s a discussion whether the interest in Anzac, excuse me, was driven by politicians or. politicians were just responding to public desire to commemorate Anzac Day. But Paul Keating in particular was a big proponent of remembering Anzac. He famously went to Kokoda and jumped out of a helicopter and kissed the ground.”

On Anzac Day morning, The Briefing podcast reflect on the rise and rise of Anzac Day and how only a generation ago, it was declining before a huge upsurge in interest and favour in the late 1990s. They are joined by Anzac historian Mat McLachlan to discuss the current popularity of Anzac Day, and whether it will survive into the future.