A hundred years after Australian soldiers landed at Gallipoli’s Anzac Cove, the nation reflected on the reality of war and their sacrifice. But for the Doyle family and others at St Christopher’s Catholic Primary Holsworthy, a soldier’s life is closer to home.
Breeanna, 11, and Lucas, 9, are among the 10 per cent of students at the school who have a parent serving in the Australian Defence Force and based at the Holsworthy Barracks. Their father Jaime runs training facilities there and has completed several tours of duty in Iraq, Afghanistan, and East Timor since he joined the Army 20 years ago.
He sees both the age-old narrative of mateship and courage and a newer one, calling for Australian’s to embrace the next generation of soldiers, played out in the media this Anzac Centenary year.
“I’ve heard a lot of conversations where they say ‘The Anzacs have already had their time, now we need to concentrate on the modern warrior’, which I don’t personally agree with,” he said.
“Australia has been at war in Afghanistan for the past 10 years on a grander scale and the’ve kept quite a close hold on details of a lot of the things soldiers have done. We’ve got probably another 50 years of Anzac Days to grow into.
“The kids know some of what I do now but I’m sure when they’re older they’ll be in a better position to appreciate it.”
Breeanna, in Year 6, she had been learning Anzac history through a special project.
“Our library research project this term is all about the Anzacs,” she said.
“There was a website with a short two-minute clip which showed what happened, where the Turks were headed and where the Anzacs were going when they landed. We had to write about what the soldiers heard, smelled, saw, and how they felt.”
Lucas, in Year 4, said he had read books about the history of Anzac biscuits, while Breeanna said she was surprised by the young age of some soldiers. “I was really curious as to why they would pretend they were older than they were to go to war,” she said.
“We had a bit of a debate about why they did it. It seemed quite unusual but their families would have also been very poor and they would have been able to feed themselves over there better.”
For Jamie, it was a close choice between a career in policing or defence.
We’re just happy to get the job done and there’s no rhetoric on how it’s done.
“I really didn’t know much about the Army at all. When I got there, there were a lot of guys who were in cadets or their parents were military, and even when I was younger I hadn’t pursued military history, so it was quite a steep learning curve.”
In the course of his work, Jaime has seen celebrated Anzac traits alive and well.
“When you read about the Anzacs, they talk about the Australian’s being so ingenious, working out how to do things. Every deployment I’ve been on has been like that. From, on the smaller end of the scale, sourcing ammunition for Indigenous fighters we were working with to in East Timor where we didn’t have a kitchen, so the boys spent a couple of days building one.
“Working with the British and the Americans, they define us in the way that they speak about our diversity, how easy-going we are, that we’re just happy to get the job done and there’s no rhetoric on how it’s done.”
It’s this same attitude and the support of family and friends that have helped wife Sonja during Jamie’s stints overseas, the longest 10 months.
“When he did his long periods overseas the kids were a lot younger,” she said.
“It was difficult, but I have my family here whereas a lot of others don’t. They move from state to state and having that network of support is harder for them. Jamie’s mum used to come over one day a week and that was the day I’d do all of the mowing and the cleaning while she looked after the kids.”
The school also has a Defence Club, which gives the children of defence force families a chance to get to know each other over lunchtime art and craft activities at school each week. Breeanna and Lucas joined in Kindergarten. “They can meet other kids who are in that same sort of boat and have that support as well,” Sonja said.