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Gratitude highlighted in 2017 Anzac Day service

Thursday, 27 April 2017 9:27pm

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Scenes from the sixth annual OUSA Anzac Day commemorations held on the Dunedin campus on Tuesday. Photos: Sharron Bennett and Luke Matsopoulos.

Three students delivered extremely moving speeches at the University of Otago Students’ Association (OUSA) Anzac Day commemorations held on Tuesday on the Dunedin campus – honouring those who have fought in wars and celebrating peace.

Held this year in the newly developed area outside the Staff Club, Tuesday afternoon’s service was bi-cultural – featuring speeches by OUSA President Hugh Baird, Tumuaki Te Rōpū Eli Toeke and first-year Psychology student Steffi Simpson, readings by Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull, Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne and University Council Member, Stuart McLauchlan, and performances by the Southern Youth Choir and the Te Rōpū Māori kapa haka group.

Student piper Sam Darling piped the welcome, which was followed by two rounds from a World War II relic 25-pounder field gun.

"My lifestyle is the legacy of those who left behind all that they loved. My worries are so insignificant and vain. My gratitude belongs to those who sacrificed so much."

Miss Simpson told the 350-strong crowd of students, staff and members of the public about her experience exactly one year ago, when she travelled to Gallipoli for Anzac Day after winning the RSA Cyril Bassett VC Speech Competition.

“Accompanied by my mother, we enjoyed the privilege of joining the official New Zealand Defence Force contingent. Naively, I thought I knew what lay ahead of me on my trip,” she said.

But standing in the battlefields of Gallipoli, at Cape Helles, and at the “innocuously named” Daisy Patch – places where so many lives were lost – she says she wept. At the Lone Pine cemetery the headstone of a 16-year-old boy stopped her in her tracks: “He has not even finished high school. He is the same age as my brother.”

“My lifestyle is the legacy of those who left behind all that they loved. My worries are so insignificant and vain. My gratitude belongs to those who sacrificed so much.”

Mr Toeke spoke of Anzac Days spent at his home marae Te Rito, near Moerewa.

“At 11 o’clock every year on the 25th of April, we would gather around the flag pole for our service. We did karakia and waiata, and one time we even had a 40-gun salute. But no one ever talked about what happened at war.”

He says he always wondered why – why didn’t they talk about what happened?

“So, I asked my mother, ‘Why doesn’t anyone talk about what happened at war?’ She said to me ‘Because it changes your life’.

“As I grew older, I began to understand what those words meant and the gravity that they held. Lives were taken and lives were forever changed. The soldiers made those sacrifices to protect the freedom and peace of our nation and world. The peace and freedom that we live in today. And it is for that reason, I honour those soldiers today.”

"Our service is organised entirely by students. Like them, I think it’s important for us to come together each year on campus and acknowledge the sacrifice of so many people, some of whom were staff and students at Otago."

Mr Baird compared the relationship between New Zealand and Australia to that of siblings – one of rivalry and also of love. He acknowledged that many of the privileges that students from both countries currently enjoy are due to the ultimate sacrifices that were made by others in times of war.

Professor Hayne says she was extremely proud of the students who organised and took part in Tuesday’s commemoration.

“Our service is organised entirely by students. Like them, I think it’s important for us to come together each year on campus and acknowledge the sacrifice of so many people, some of whom were staff and students at Otago.

“The students who spoke on Tuesday were truly grateful to those who came before them, many who were the same age, or younger, than they are now.

“I was deeply moved to hear them speak of their appreciation and to hear their stories of what Anzac Day meant to them and to their families.”

OUSA Events Coordinator Luke Matsopoulos says he was very pleased with this year’s turnout.

“I want to say a huge thank you for all those that came, and to all those that were a part of this year’s service. Everybody did an outstanding job and it was a really special commemoration to our fallen Anzacs.”

More images from the Anzac Day service, taken by Sharron Bennett:

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