VC recipient says Anzac Day not waning

Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith has pointed to an estimated 55,000 people who turned out for the dawn service in Canberra to show Anzac Day attendance is still strong.

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Mr Roberts-Smith said the next generation of Australians were acknowledging the sacrifice of those who went before.

Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson said it was tempting to settle for the broad brushstrokes of history, saying comfortable lives could breed indifference to the individual sacrifice made in our names.

The names of 102,700 Australians are the roll of honour at the memorial.

“Like us each had only one life, one life to serve others and our nation. They chose us,” Dr Nelson said in his dawn service address on Monday.

Crowd numbers this Anzac Day in Canberra are down on last year’s record 100,000-plus attendances, which were boosted by the marking of 100 years since the Gallipoli landing.

However, Dr Nelson was extremely proud of the Australians who still turned out in large numbers.

“Fifty-five thousand people attended the dawn service here this morning to honour and respect those men and women who have served our nation and who continue to serve in every sense of the word,” he said.

“In our civilian day-to-day lives, that’s what’s most important. What we need most is one another. We need to embrace the ideals of the Anzac tradition,” he said.

Mr Roberts-Smith said the Canberra turnout spoke for itself.

“It shows that it is not waning. It is probably across the board increasing. Importantly the next generation of Australians acknowledge that sacrifice and have been taught that is what we must do, moving forward as a country,” he told reporters.

Mr Roberts-Smith said mateship was what got soldiers through.

“It’s not about anything else. It doesn’t come down to anything other than doing what you have to do for your mates. The cardinal sin would be to let your mates down. It’s absolutely true,” he said.