A Time to Remember, a Time to Reflect, and a Time to Rejoice

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

 

Robert Laurence Binyon [1869-1943] penned this famous fourth stanza in his poem, “For the Fallen”. Every year now for 100 years we, as Australians and New Zealanders, have remembered those who fell in the ANZAC campaign at Gallipoli from the first landing on 25 April 1915, and
in other theatres of war in which our nations participated.

This remembrance, the pause in time when we are silent and reflect, and rejoice in the opportunities afforded to us today and into the future, is a significant part of our cultural heritage and something we gladly share with others. Attending the GLP Canberra Symposium was an opportunity to learn of and express our own cultural heritage, as well as learning about the wonderful diversity of cultures in our world.

Canberra Symposium Delegate.jpgAs a delegate from Macquarie University on the Canberra Symposium in August 2015, I felt honoured and privileged to participate with such a diverse group of people over a four day period in a well organised and deeply significant series of events that included visits to ambassadorial representatives such as dining with the High Commissioner for Pakistan at her personal residence; visiting the United States of America Embassy; and enjoying the hospitality of the Italian Embassy. There were numerous other persons and places we met and visited too, and yes, dinner time with newfound friends, my fellow delegates, was always enjoyable, Yet the most significant activity for me was the excursion to the National War Memorial. It is here I experienced my own personal opportunity to remember, reflect and rejoice.

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Mine is an experience that has taken six decades to realise. As those who kindly listened to a small piece of my life story know, this opportunity to attend the memorial was the first time I had been to this location. I was never afforded the opportunity as a 6th grade primary school student, nor whilst in high school. As a child, I knew my grandfather’s name was inscribed here for all to see, so for myself it was an opportunity I treasured and strove for even as a mature-aged undergraduate student drafting my application for the Symposium.

 

While to some the War Memorial is a mere ‘tourist site’, it was of deep significance to me that I was finally able to visit, in my 60th year, the place where my grandfather has his name recorded on the Honour Roll. I never had the chance to meet or get to know my granddad. Visiting the memorial for me is a token of what many others have, the real life experience of having a grandfather, yet this is all I have and so I truly embrace it without complaint.

 

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Thomas Norman Watson2.jpg
Information and image supplied by staff at the Australian War Memorial

My grandfather died in 1944 whilst serving in a Field Ambulance unit as a result of illness when he was a prisoner-of-war. One key aspect I take home from this experience is the humanitarian heritage I have. I am a student of Human Sciences, and as an individual I have found in my past a personal place: a link, a key, one element that contributes to my sense of belonging, of being, and most importantly, of my becoming. Becoming to me is a lifelong journey and in my travels a story unfolds. We all have our own unique and personal stories. As humans our stories intersect and run parallel to others; they all exist on a continuum. I might suggest this is the inception, growth and development of that term ‘culture’.

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A moment of reflection at the Roll of Honour.

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Memorial Plaque. Labuan Cemetery public records.

The GLP facilitates our awareness and understanding of peoples and their cultures. The Canberra Symposium is a rich and abundant source of insight into cultural diversity, and in making yourself open to your fellow delegates and the events on the program; you will find, like me, you have been granted a gift. I invite each of you to grant yourself this gift, the gift of taking a journey and creating your own personal story. I wish each of you well on your journey.

Mark Watson, Canberra Symposium Delegate, August 2015.

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