Anzac Day 25 April

Australians commemorate Anzac Day on 25 April every year. This is the anniversary of the day when Australian and New Zealand soldiers landed on Gallipoli in 1915 as part of the Allies' invasion. Anzac Day draws large crowds of people to the dawn services, and marches are held around the country.

Anzac Day is a time for all Australians to recognise the more than 1.5 million service men and women who have served our country in all conflicts, wars and peacekeeping operations. It's also a time to remember the more than 102,000 Australians who sacrificed their lives in our country's name.

Domestic and overseas commemorations

National dawn service and ceremony in Canberra

Each year in Canberra, the Australian War Memorial hosts the Anzac Day Dawn Service with support from the Returned and Services League of Australia ACT. In 2019, some 35,000 people attended the national service.

The Anzac Day National Ceremony later in the day follows a traditional order of service, including the veterans' march.

State and local services

In towns and cities across Australia and around the world, Australians attend services to:

  • salute the service and sacrifice of the men and women who have worn our country's uniform
  • recognise the men and women who are currently serving overseas
  • acknowledge the impact this has on them and their family and friends who remain at home

National services overseas

The Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) supports Anzac Day services overseas. These commemorative ceremonies include:

  • Anzac Day Service, Gallipoli, Turkey
  • Anzac Day Service, Villers-Bretonneux, France
  • Anzac Day Service, Hellfire Pass, Thailand
  • Anzac Day Service, Sandakan, Malaysia
  • Anzac Day Service, Isurava, Papua New Guinea
  • Anzac Day Service, Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery, Papua New Guinea
  • The Centenary of the Battle of Bullecourt, France

About the dawn service

The Anzac Day dawn service has its origins in the Army's 'stand-to' routine. This is when soldiers in the front line guarded their posts at dawn, a time when attacks were often launched.

After World War I, many returned soldiers missed the comradeship they felt at these times. This is why a dawn ceremony became their preferred form of remembrance on Anzac Day. The tradition also has a symbolic link to the dawn landing on Gallipoli.

First Anzac Day

While the Gallipoli Campaign was still being fought, the landing on Gallipoli was already etched into the minds of many people. It became a defining moment in Australia’s history.

When the first Violet Day was held in South Australia to commemorate the war dead on 2 July 1915, the South Australian Governor, Sir Henry Galway, said:

If any day is to be chosen for Australia's day I think it should be April 25 … Those heroes will hand down the finest traditions to their sons and their son's sons, and still further on …

In 1916, the Acting Prime Minister, George Pearce, officially named 25 April as 'Anzac Day'.

The first anniversary of the landing was observed in Australia, New Zealand and England. More than 2000 Australians marched through central London to Westminster Abbey. King George V, Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes and Allied military leaders attended the service.

Australian troops in Britain, Egypt and France attended local services to commemorate the landing at Gallipoli.

Changing attitudes

Since its origins in 1916, Anzac Day has continued to be an important day for Australians.

By the 1920s, Anzac Day ceremonies were held throughout Australia. All States had designated Anzac Day as a public holiday.

During the 1930s, the Returned and Services League (RSL) called for greater acknowledgement of living veterans. The focus of the Anzac Day ceremony began to shift from a day of mourning to a day on which veterans commemorated their own war service and sacrifices.

In the 1940s, Second World War veterans joined parades around the country. In later decades, veterans from the conflicts in Korea, Malaya and Indonesia joined in.

In the 1960s and '70s, some Australians returning from the Vietnam War felt their service was not appreciated by the public. Some veterans felt excluded from the Anzac tradition, and they chose not to march on Anzac Day ceremonies for many years. A special Welcome Home parade held on 3 October 1987 helped to change those attitudes.

Today, Anzac Day ceremonies and marches include:

  • Australians representing all conflicts, including veterans who served in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Rwanda and Timor-Leste
  • veterans from Allied countries

Visits to Gallipoli

Since the 1980s, large numbers of Australian travellers have gathered at Anzac Cove in Turkey for the official Anzac Day ceremony.

Gallipoli remains an important place in the collective memory of many Australians. People visit to connect with family stories and celebrate their Australian identity.


Last updated: 23 July 2020

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2020), Anzac Day 25 April, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 2 October 2020, http://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/commemoration/commemoration-days/anzac-day
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