OUR SAY: Remembrance Day puts our worries in true perspective

HORRIBLE CONDITIONS: Soldiers at Gallipoli with boxes of bully beef. Photo: AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL
HORRIBLE CONDITIONS: Soldiers at Gallipoli with boxes of bully beef. Photo: AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL

Remembrance Day this year carries extra significance for Australia as a mark of respect for those whose sacrifices a century ago solidified our transformation from colonial hotch-potch to a safe and secure nation punching above its weight in global affairs.

What's more, the commemorations offer a much-needed reminder of how much we take for granted. 

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 2017 marks the moment 99 years ago when hostilities officially ceased on the Western Front in France and Belgium.

Of the 60,000-plus Australians who perished in WWI, 8141 were killed in eight months of fighting at Gallipoli and 45,000 on the Western Front. Many still lie in Flanders Fields, where the red poppies grow from their spilt blood.

The Australians fought and died a world away from home, for what former prime minister Paul Keating in 1993 called “a democratic tradition, the tradition in which Australians have gone to war ever since”.

Thanks in great part to the sacrifices of those dead, the injured and their families, the Australia of 2017 is a very lucky country indeed. Given such stability and abundance of riches, as well as a vast potential to play a key role in international relations, we have scant reason to complain.

Yet young Australians fear for their future. A story published by the Central Western Daily this week outlined how Orange’s youth are concerned by their (lack of) prospects for jobs and home ownership in the future.

They are, by most standards, reasonable concerns. But they pale in comparison when examined in the same light as the daunting, life-threatening realities faced by their grandparents and more distant relatives a century ago.

Remember that Australia lost 100,000 citizens to war last century. World War I was particularly tragic. A full 38.7 per cent of the male population aged between 18 and 44 enlisted for combat between 1914 and 1918, according to the Australian War Memorial.

Most of the 61,154 Australians who died in WWI were aged 18 to 30. The death toll was 1.24 per cent of the nation's 4.9 million population at the time, or 1240 deaths per 100,000 people.

By contrast, about 170 Australians per 100,000 people of all ages died from all forms of cancer combined last year.

Such sobering statistics should put the problems of 2017 into perspective, if only for a day.


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