ANZAC Speech by Raglan Area School Head Student Sophie Higgins

Tena koutou katoa, 

I’d like to begin by highlighting that in these very uncertain times, I’m grateful that we as a community are able to gather here like this to commemorate probably one of the most significant days in our country’s calendar. Recent commemorations have been somewhat interrupted in the past few years with the current pandemic, but now more than ever I believe we are feeling the importance of community spirit and community pride, which is why it is so great that we are able to come together like this as we are now.

Today on the 25th of April 2022, we mark the one-hundred-and-sixth anniversary of the New Zealand and Australian Army Corps – the ANZACS – marching onto the shores of the Dardanelles Peninsula in Gallipoli, 1915. We are here today to commemorate the bravery, courage and sacrifice of those who served in the Gallipoli Campaign and to pay tribute to every New Zealand and Australian serviceman who has been involved in war within the history of our nations.

It is easy to forget sometimes, but we are some of the lucky ones. We are part of some of the lucky generations that have not had to feel the full and direct effects of war. Older generations will remember better than those who came after, but most of us have never had to grow up under threats of violence or foreign invasion. We have never had to understand how it feels to leave behind everything you know – your home, family, friends and loved ones – and be unsure of whether you will return. We don’t know firsthand how it feels to watch a father or brother – or sister or mother – leave and return home just not quite the same, and we’ve never had to feel the pain of watching them struggle to integrate back into a society that is harder to call their own. 

No, we have not had to feel that pain because thanks to those brave souls who left our shores over a hundred years ago we have not needed to. What we feel instead is freedom. A freedom that we may not have today, had the ANZACs not risked their lives in the name of freedom for our country. A freedom that is not bought but that is earned, at the price of the sacrifice of nations. 

We also feel pride. A pride that binds us together by coming here today and paying respect to those who have gone before us. A pride we have in being New Zealanders and a pride we feel in being a part of our wonderful country, which the ANZACs have served to protect in our past. A pride that we continue to show by upholding the qualities of our nation as the ANZACs did and continue to do today. 

Every year, hundreds of servicemen from all areas of our defence force are trained and deployed to serve in troubled locations overseas. Recently we have seen troops serving in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea and South Sudan, and as we speak we have over fifty defence force personnel in Germany helping with weapon delivery and logistics aid for the Ukrainian military. Even when the world feels like it’s stopped these past years the ANZACs have continued to proudly march on, because war does not stop – even if we do. 

Today is our chance to extend our thanks to the brave people who devote their time, lives and families for the good of others. Today is a day to remember the history of our nation, a nation which might be vastly different from the one we see now, had we not felt the sacrifice of the 2779 servicemen who lost their lives this day one-hundred-and-six years ago. Today is a day to remember those soldiers and everyone who has come after with the pride and respect that their service commands. 

Because we must remember them. For our children, our children’s children and for all the families who have lost someone because of war. We must remember them for the future of our country, and the future of both of our nations. We must remember them, because the day we don’t is the day that every sacrifice and every life lost will be in vain. 

They may be gone but they are not forgotten, because to live in the hearts we leave behind is to live forever. And so, we will remember them.

Lest we forget. 

Thank you.

Nga Mihi.

From left, Sophie Higgins, Raglan Area School Head Student and Jarvis Camenzind, Deputy Head Student.