We attended the ANZAC Day dawn service here in Dili on Saturday. This was a special occasion of the 100th anniversary of Australian and New Zealand troops landing at Gallipoli, Turkey, in World War 1. We were invading Turkey at the command of Britain and after 9 months and 140,000 deaths we pulled out. Dismal failure really. But we Aussies look back on it as a defining moment in our national identity. If we think too deeply about the politics of it all we start to get a bit prickly. Strange really, on the face of it. Its like our other “national anthem”, Waltzing Matilda – a shearer steals a sheep and when the cops come down to get him he drowns himself by jumping in a nearby water hole. Yep, that would be our most famous song. If you look beyond the surface of these events though, you’ll find courage in the face of insurmountable odds. You’ll hear statements like, “She’ll be right, mate!” and “I’ll have a crack at it!”. You’ll see a spirit that is prepared to fight for a fair go for everyone. That’s what we Aussies like to celebrate even if we don’t really understand it ourselves.
So why ANZAC Day in Dili? Because their are Aussies and Kiwis here, still serving and assisting the security forces. And even better, we have some folks from Turkey still here, left over from the UN connection. Its a time to look back and remember the involvement that Australia and NZ has played in TL from World War 2, 1999 and 2006. The Timorese are grateful for the most part and the beach and steep hills around Dili are not unlike the beach of Gallipoli – or so they tell me.
Lest we forget.