I decided that my weekly adventure would be a drive, probably taking all day, to the iconic Coles and Wineglass bays on the West coast of Tasmania. I had forgotten my adopted maxim since arriving in Tassie, “Weather Permitting”.I’m usually optimistic about my travel plans so I was sure that the early fog would lift and reveal a beautiful day for exploring. It lifted and brought with it the remains of the Sydney storm in the form of persistent rain. Heading back to my beautiful writer’s retreat and feline companion at Bonnet Hill, I became aware of the current mood at the approaching Anzac centenary day on the 25th. How could I not be aware with every media outlet and store seeking to blast it into our consciousness!. It seems to me that the historical only makes sense at a personal level so when Anzac day comes around I always think of my father Alan who fought in Malaya and Borneo in WW2 and whose birthday falls on the 26th, the day after the one day in the year when we celebrate those who fought and died in all wars. But only some it seems. Many, like the Indigenous troops whom my unclie, Leslie Hone, trained in Darwin, fought bravely and after the war were not even allowed to enter the Returned Servicemen’s Clubs. My uncle received an OBE for his work but I don’t think the Indigenous soldiers even received a skerrick of recognition for their brave participation. I know my father felt ambivalent about fighting. A bit of a maverick, I could see that he didn’t like the system but also couldn’t support what was happening in the Pacific .Like so many servicemen and women, war traumatised him and those at home after the war, paid the price. I read in the Mercury, the local Tasmanian paper, a story about the heavy burden placed on families by soldiers who did return. Historian Reg Watson said “If a man came back with no legs, no hands or no face, they were often looked after by their ageing parents. And those parents must have suffered. ” But we are beginning to learn that war leaves non physical scars too in the form of PTSD which are often left untreated and unconsciously and sometimes consciously inflicted on the combatants families for them to deal with in isolation.
Anzac day has become a sacred day. It is almost a holy day when Australians and New Zealanders remember the dead, not the living. I would like to see more done to help all those who are current victims of all the wars in which Australians have fought. All soldiers and their families of course, but also the people of the countries where we have fought. Not just a formal recognition but adequate compensation for all that they have endured and all that they have lost.