ANZAC Centenary: ANZAC Spirit or Christmas in April


Woolworths and their advertising agency are in the shite this week because of their unsavoury use of ANZAC symbols and their particularly strange and almost sick use of the slogan, “Fresh in our Memories.”

One aspect of the pun, with links to their mantra “the fresh food people,” is obvious I suppose… but, I’ve been baffled, trying to work out the second meaning they were seeking. Are we supposed to think of ‘freshly’ killed young soldiers lying out on the battlefield? Or, maybe we are encouraged to imagine receiving ‘fresh’ news, as telegrams, radios and newspapers started delivering the horrid truth of what was happening to young men on the other side of the world? Were we then encouraged to make links between fresh food and fresh wounds, or fresh heartache, or freshly dug trenches full of fresh blood and mud. Seeing as none of these things is at all fresh in my memory, one that only spans back as far as about 1987, and to a childhood that I must say was fairly void of all this ANZAC propaganda and rubbish, I’ve had to fill in the gaps with conclusions that are a little far-fetched though no more tenuous than the associations Woolworths failed to sell.


Maybe, the state of the fresh food section at the end of the day could be a metaphor for the state of the trenches a couple of years into the war, a few flies about, a few stale ANZAC cookies on special next to a Lipton teabag display stand. It is no picnic at the Smith Street “Woolies” in Collingwood late on a Saturday afternoon when you’re very likely to run into a few other busted and broken individuals. The remnants of loose-leaf spinach cling to the wet plastic box liner, forgotten ghosts of our lost youth, there are midges all over the stone fruit and you can forget about bananas.  I will say that the gut-ache I got from the three day old bag of squashed hot cross buns I picked up on special is fresh enough in my memory to not make that mistake again, at least until next Easter.  There is usually a bit of muck on the floor, an abandoned post (mop) and a knocked over ‘slippery when wet’ sign. I’m not sure what that could mean. Maybe it’s a sign that we don’t need some stupid sign telling us it’s slippery. MAYBE, we’re trying to tell Woolworths to harden the fuck up. MAYBE we are trying to tell Woolworths that we fought in the war and the trenches are still fresh in our memories and we don’t need some stupid sign to warn us about a measly little wet floor when we’ve still got the memory of bullets whizzing past our tin hats and the screams of our comrades bouncing around in our noggins from another Turkey shell that blasted a hole the size of the frozen food section in our trench that some would call hell, but we called home for three years.  Dear Woolworths, we’re ANZACS dammit, stop trying to protect us and mollycoddle us.


Have I gone too far? Is that what Woolworths were trying to do?  Trying to make us remember what it was like? Trying to recreate that nightmare that we all lived through in those horrible years? Did they intend to find me lying, prostrate on the floor after jumping on a rock hard avocado that wouldn’t be ripe for another week after it rolled off its stand onto the floor, like the time my mate Danny jumped on a grenade to save my life and the lives of ten other brave men?


I just slapped myself and gave myself a stern reminder that I didn’t live through the war. I also had to remind myself that Australia has been involved in some other wars, nothing significant of course, just WW2, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan… and there are possibly others but who cares really? I’ve always said that if they don’t add value to the national psyche or reputation, forget them. Actually, I’ve never said that, I’ll slap myself again.


But remember this, the AFL takes its little slice of ANZAC money next week, trading on our strange obsession with glorifying a moment when our ancestors were sold down the river to be slaughtered like lambs. I do find the Woolworths ad disgusting, but no more than so much other rubbish that is spewed out about ANZAC history. I haven’t made my mind up about what it all means. I know they were brave men and I know they were doing their bit and I want them to be remembered, but if things keep heading the way they are, we’ll being buying our kids ANZAC day presents and queuing to sit on a Digger’s knee. The memories aren’t fresh; they are getting blurrier and blurrier by the year.



  1. Cat from the Country says

    Makes the point that Woolies is not alone.
    Many ads are evoking the Spirit of Anzac.
    You are quite right; the memories are not fresh for so many people as we did not go to war!
    I hope I never hear Happy Anzac!

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Remembrance yes, celebration no

    Anzac Day March not the Moomba Parade

    Go to the Dawn Service, don’t buy the stubby holder

    The whole Woolies thing – i despair at the decision making process that must exist (or not) at corporations like that. How did that get through?

    As you point out David, where is the line, and has the AFL crossed it?

  3. David – like you I despise militarism, nationalism and commercialism. But I have come to believe that you can’t judge the past through the prism of today. Hindsight makes fools of all of us.
    What matters is the sacrifice, commitment and camaraderie of what they believed they were fighting for at the time. Bravery and sacrifice in a fool’s errand is still bravery. That is what I honour in my parent’s and grandparent’s generation each Anzac Day.
    Woolworth’s certainly went too far in their ad, but I think you go too far in your condemnation of the AFL and the Anzac centenary commemorations in general. I see no signs of glorification of war. It is a coming together for personal reflection in a community setting.
    My personal view of remembrance of war has always been along the lines of what Lincoln said at the Gettysburg:
    “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”
    They gave us the opportunity to continue to live in a secular democracy that largely preserves freedom of speech and personal liberty. We can debate individual conflicts, but there is no doubt that this hinged in the balance in WW2.
    Good on you for saying what was on your mind.

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