ANZAC day has always been an uneasy day for me. You know that you’re supposed to feel connected to this ‘most sacred day on Australia’s calendar’ as Scott Morrison recently put it, and yet you don’t feel like you are quite a part of it. It is a day where I have felt grateful for the freedoms that Australia affords me, yet, when I have seen all the photos of people showing the photos and medals of their grandfathers, I felt excluded. It made me feel even more like I was dangling across the ocean somewhere between my country of origin and Australia.
And in the past, I know that at the local ANZAC parade other ex-soldiers of other countries were invited to take part in the march. It came as a surprise that Australia welcomed and embraced other military men who are now Australians. Yet, even that, never really made me feel like I was a part of the day.
It is not a case that I don’t connect to the ANZACs themselves. I have never been able to muster up the courage to go the dawn service, because I think I would just be too emotional. On any regular day, I just have to walk around the ANZAC memorial at King’s Park in Perth and start fighting back the tears.
No, it came down to me just never having that photo of the person that connected me to ANZAC day. That was until ANZAC day 2021. Until I saw the photo of Alec McLellan. I finally connected. Here was a person who I never met, but I can say made a sacrifice and have a personal connection to my family. A name and a face that connects me to the history of Australia.
Alec’s son, Richard, was instrumental in our journey to Australia. When we thought we’ll just go to Cambodia for 18 months and then return to South Africa, Richard was the man who saw the potential in my husband to do ground-breaking conservation work in Cambodia. He encouraged us to come to Australia, and he helped pave the way for us to be here. None of this would be possible if it wasn’t for the sacrifices his father, Alec made.Today, although I acknowledge all ANZACs, I salute Alec McLellan- a man who fought for the freedom that my family and I have today. He fought for a free world. For people to be able to make free choices, beyond tyranny and fascism. For me. For my family.