Kids in pastel flannelette stood quietly in the dark next to a long line of soldiers in full uniform, as this year’s Wollongong dawn service began.
Marking the 103rd anniversary of Anzac Day, the 2018 event attracted a smaller crowd than the last few years, but was no less significant to those who attended.
For Wollongong’s Daniel Bellamy and Nicole Davies, who arrived with three pajama-clad girls in tow, the early rise has become a meaningful yearly ritual.
“It’s about respecting the past, and I think it’s important the kids become a part of that – and they all were happy to get out of bed and come,” Mr Bellamy said.
“We want them to really understand Anzac Day, not just that it’s a day off,” Ms Davies said.
For sisters Elspeth McCombe and Dorothy David, of Mount Saint Thomas and Woonona, paying their respects in front of the Wollongong cenotaph every year is chance to remember their dad.
“Our dad was a soldier,” Ms McCombe said.
“Dad never talked about his war service – but we know he was in Borneo, and he found out about my birth in a plane over New Guinea.”
“Every year I just think about how disastrous war is, but how brave people were too.”
Rear Admiral Bruce Kafer, the head of reserves and youth in the Australian Defence Force expressed similar sentiments about the impact of war in his dawn service address.
“2018 is the centenary of the end of World War I, or the Great War, and when the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, it was hoped it has been the war to end all wars,” he said.
“However hundreds of thousands of Australians have continued to service our nation at home and abroad, and in conflicts throughout the world.”
He noted this year would also be the 75th anniversary of victory in the battle of the Atlantic in WWII, the 65th anniversary of the Korean War armistice and the 50th anniversary of the battle of Coral and Balmoral in the Vietnam war.
“Anzac Day provides an opportunity to publicly acknowledge all of those who have served, and the men and women who are currently serving our nation, but in a way that is not too overly patriotic, because that is not the Aussie style,” he said.
“I know that those who have gone before us in our defence force would warn against over playing the myths and legends that have emerged from conflicts – I’m sure our war veterans would remind us that most people were or are ordinary people thrust into extraordinary situations.
“However, their selflessness, mateship, and determination have inspired us, and have become valued aspects of our national identity. Lest we forget.”
Large numbers also turned out at Thirroul, Austinmer and other northern Illawarra dawn services.
About 600 people attended the Austinmer service to remember those who have served.