Anzac Day is one of Australia’s most revered national occasions, marking the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during World War I. More than a century later, on Anzac Day, we will stop, remember and honour those who lost their lives in Australian military and peacekeeping operations.
In an interview with Air Chief Marshal Sir Angus Houston AK, AFC (Ret’d), Patron of Phoenix Australia and the Centenary of Anzac Centre, we reflect on the significance of Anzac Day and the importance of the Anzac Centre’s work.
Why do you think so many Australians of different generations continue to have such great respect for Anzac Day?
Australians and New Zealanders of all generations hold the courageous Anzacs who landed at Gallipoli in the highest regard. Accordingly, Anzac Day provides an opportunity to remember and respect the service and sacrifice of the Anzacs, and those brave Australians and New Zealanders that followed them through a century of service to our two nations.
Why do you think it continues to be important to mark Anzac Day?
The Gallipoli landings occurred only 14 years after the Federation of Australia and the Federation of New Zealand. Australians and New Zealanders were fighting under their national flags for the first time. The campaign to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula was to be the first real test for both nations. The reputation of both nations was on the line. Although they did not achieve their objective, the Anzacs, through their courage, commitment, endurance and mateship, did not let their nations down. The Anzac spirit was born, and it is important each year to remember and recall the Anzacs who gave us this legacy.
How do you mark Anzac Day?
Wherever I am, I attend the Dawn Service and the larger more formal commemorative services held later in the day. This year I will be in Canberra and I will attend the beautiful and moving Dawn Service at the Australian War Memorial. Later in the morning I will attend the National Commemorative Service, also at the Australian War Memorial.
The Centenary of Anzac Centre was launched to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. Why do you support the work of the Centenary of Anzac Centre?
As a former Chief of the Defence Force, I am passionate about finding better ways to support, assist and treat veterans, servicemen and servicewomen who are suffering from PTSD and other mental health issues. The Centenary of Anzac Centre is a centre of excellence, comprising a treatment research centre and a very practical practitioner support service. The work it does will enhance knowledge and expertise in military mental health. Accordingly, I am a strong and passionate supporter of the centre.
How do you think the Anzac Centre can make a difference to the mental health of veterans and service people?
Through its translational research program, I expect to see progress in the treatment of PTSD and other mental health conditions suffered by veterans. The practitioner support service supports a range of people from volunteers at ex-service organisations through to general practitioners and specialist mental health providers, providing ‘multi-disciplinary’ expert advice and guidance on the treatment and support of veterans with mental health problems. This will improve the treatment and support available to veterans.
What message would you share with practitioners, researchers and ex-service organisations about how and why they should use the Centenary of Anzac Centre?
The Centenary of Anzac Centre has a world class team of experts dedicated to enhancing the treatment of mental health problems through innovative research and provision of multi-disciplinary expert advice to those in the business of helping and treating veterans. Because of this, the Anzac Centre can help you make a difference in supporting and treating veterans with mental health problems and their families.