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Commemorating Sacrifice & Preserving Freedom

The Mapp Report - www.wayne-mapp.co.nz

ANZAC DAY: Commemorating Sacrifice & Preserving Freedom

It has been ninety years since New Zealanders landed at ANZAC cove in Gallipoli. Only very few New Zealanders from that time are still alive. They would have been children then, and have been acutely aware of the fate of loved ones during the campaign. It is worth recollecting that Gallipoli is further back in time than 1915 was from the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Many of those young men would have been children or grandchildren of the first great wave of British immigrants who came to New Zealand in the 1850s and 1860s. They knew what it meant to be part of Empire, and that is how they saw themselves in April 1915. Yet within a few months, a different sense was emerging; a distinctively New Zealand voice, not one that was disconnected from Britain, but equally not the same as being part of the "home" country.

Ninety years later it is hard to imagine the very real sense of the shared enterprise of Empire. For at least one and maybe two generations, virtually no New Zealander has referred to Britain as home. We are our own country. At ANZAC ceremonies, we celebrate our own nationhood, and the immense sacrifice that was necessary to preserve our freedom. Young New Zealanders know of the truth of this, and that is why so many go to so much effort to make the journey to ANZAC cove, even if it is not all solemn ceremonies.

This is why the flag debate has emerged. ANZAC Day is about our nationhood, and flags are a symbol of nationhood. The most frequent refrain for change is that many New Zealanders want a distinctive flag - that can not be confused with that of any other nation. Canada had this debate 40 years ago, and they managed to contrive a design that is now one of the best known and loved flags on the planet. It is a simple design, of only two colours and the maple leaf symbol, a leaf more associated with Canada than with any other nation.

It is a debate we as a nation will now start to think about, as this week's article in the New Zealand Herald from Ken Adams shows. But it is worth remembering that ninety years ago, our ANZACs fought and died under the stripes of the Union Jack, and the stars of the Southern Cross. For the men of World War 1 and World War II, our current flag will always be their flag, and on ANZAC day we commemorate their sacrifices to preserve our current freedoms.

22nd April 2005

Dr Wayne Mapp

Visit my website for more information at: www.wayne-mapp.co.nz

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