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At the going down of the sun we will forget them

By Tess Lawrence - posted Monday, 7 May 2012

From somewhere in another sepia time zone bleeding into this 97th Anzac Day, a lone magpie warbles in the dark, nature's own melancholic bugler of the Last Post, calling out to the huddled throng gathering to form a human wreath around Daylesford's Cenotaph.

A relunctant dawn has yet to awaken the weary batallions of ghosts of wars past and present, whose spirits we invoke to salve our conscience and decorate our history.

A chiffon veil of misty rain, like the gentle tears of angels, anoints us. We are of all ages and disposition; some even direct descendants of the names etched onto the monument and cut deep into the hearts that surround it.


In some homes, lights are on. The sick, elderly and frail will stay home and murmur their own prayers or curses; older Diggers among them. Some unable to march; some refuse to march. There will be neglected widows cast onto the pyres of bureaucratic indifference along with the orphans of war.

Candles will already have been lit and faded photographs of young men frozen in time by the camera lens before they were frozen in death by a bullet, will ritually be brought down from the mantlepiece in Nan's loungeroom and dead lips lovingly fingered and kissed.

All around Australia, in regional villages not disimilar to Daylesford, millions of us emerge to remember and mourn our dead, forming human Avenues of Honour at dawn services and parades.

But some of us also came to mourn the living, our 57,000 Veterans or so, who for decades, have shamefully been left for dead by the Gillard and previous Australian governments.

We weep for the dead. But the dead would surely weep for their brothers and sisters in arms, who survived these wars only to be treated as third class citizens in their own country.

Some are in the seventh age of man. They have been subjected to systematic elder abuse by this nation. Not only have they been robbed of their youth, but they have been robbed of comfort and peace of mind in their middle age and dotage.


Their loyalty and service was rewarded with a comparative humiliating pittance of a pension and an inadequate superannuation scheme and death benefit that leaves many of them and their widows living and dying under the breadline and under the radar of the general public.

But hey, it's Anzac Day, when our Government props up a myth of how we really treat our Diggers. It seems we honour the dead and despise the living. Forget about the ungrateful dead. And forget about the ungrateful living. It's enough to have the honour of wearing the uniform, right ?

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A longer version of this article was first published on Independent Australia.

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About the Author

Tess Lawrence is a journalist advocate and specialist in ethical media services and crisis management and contributing editor at large for Independent Australia.

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