Ceremonies & Protocols

  • Lights are switched off
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  • Short Silence
  • The Ode recital
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ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and is an acronym for those Australian and New Zealand forces that fought in the first major military action of the First World War. ANZAC Day on the 25th April is an anniversary to remember those Australian and New Zealand forces involved in military action and for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. It is Australia’s most important occasion, a very moving commemoration that continues to attract large numbers across the breadth of Australia.

Why is this day so special to Australians?

When war broke out in 1914 Australia had been a federal commonwealth for only fourteen years. The new national government was eager to establish its reputation among the nations of the world. In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula to open the way to the Black Sea for the allied navies. The plan was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul), capital of the Ottoman Empire and an ally of Germany. They landed at Gallipoli on 25th April, meeting fierce resistance from the Turkish defenders. What had been planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. The campaign resulted in over 8,000 Australian soldiers being killed. News of the landing at Gallipoli made a profound impact on Australians at home and 25th April quickly became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in war. Though the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives of capturing Constantinople and knocking Turkey out of the war, the Australian and New Zealand troops’ actions during the campaign bequeathed an intangible but powerful legacy. The creation of what became known as an “ANZAC legend” became an important part of the national identity of both nations. This shaped the ways they viewed both their past and their future.

Early commemorations

The date, 25th April, was officially named ANZAC Day in 1916; in that year it was marked by a wide variety of ceremonies and services in Australia, a march through London and a sports day in the Australian camp in Egypt. In London, over 2,000 Australian and New Zealand troops marched through the streets of the city. A London newspaper headline dubbed them “The knights of Gallipoli”. Marches were held all over Australia in 1916. Wounded soldiers from Gallipoli attended the Sydney march in convoys of cars, attended by nurses. For the remaining years of the war, ANZAC Day was used as an occasion for patriotic rallies and recruiting campaigns and parades of serving members of the AIF were held in most cities. During the 1920s, ANZAC Day became established as a national day of commemoration for the 60,000 Australians who died during the war. The first year in which all the States observed some form of public holiday together on ANZAC Day was 1927. By the mid-1930s all the rituals we today associate with the day – dawn vigils, marches, memorial services, reunions, sly two-up games – were firmly established as part of ANZAC Day culture. With the coming of the Second World War, ANZAC Day became a day on which to commemorate the lives of Australians lost in that war as well, and in subsequent years the meaning of the day has been further broadened to include Australians killed in all the military operations in which Australia has been involved. ANZAC Day was first commemorated at the Australian War Memorial in 1942, but due to government orders preventing large public gatherings in case of Japanese air attack, it was a small affair and was neither a march nor a memorial service. ANZAC Day has been annually commemorated at the Australian War Memorial ever since.

What does it mean today?

Australians recognise 25th April as an occasion of national commemoration. Commemorative services are held at dawn, the time of the original landing, across the nation. Later in the day ex-servicemen and women meet and join in marches through the major cities and many smaller centres. Commemorative ceremonies are held at war memorials around the country. It is a day when Australians reflect on the many different meanings of war.

Dawn Service

The Dawn Service observed on ANZAC Day has its origins in an operational routine which is still observed by the Australian Army today. The half-light of dawn plays tricks with soldiers’ eyes and from the earliest times the half-hour or so before dawn, with all its grey, misty shadows, became one of the most favoured times for an attack. Soldiers in defensive positions were therefore woken up in the dark, before dawn, so that by the time the first dull grey light crept across the battlefield they were awake, alert and manning their weapons. This was, and still is, known as “Stand-to”. It was also repeated at sunset. After the First World War, returned soldiers sought the comradeship they felt in those quiet, peaceful moments before dawn. With symbolic links to the dawn landing at Gallipoli, a dawn stand-to or dawn ceremony became a common form of ANZAC Day remembrance during the 1920s; the first official dawn service was held at the Sydney Cenotaph in 1927. Dawn services were originally very simple and followed the operational ritual; in many cases they were restricted to veterans only. The daytime ceremony was for families and other well-wishers, the dawn service was for old soldiers to remember and reflect among the comrades with whom they shared a special bond. Before dawn the gathered veterans would be ordered to “stand to” and two minutes of silence would follow. At the end of this time a lone bugler would play the “Last Post” and then concluded the service with “Reveille”. In more recent times the families and young people have been encouraged to take part in dawn services, and services in Australian capital cities have seen some of the largest turnouts ever. Reflecting this change, the ceremonies have become more elaborate, incorporating hymns, readings, pipers and rifle volleys. Others, though, have retained the simple format of the dawn stand-to, familiar to so many soldiers.

The ANZAC Day ceremony

Each year the commemorations follow a pattern that is familiar to each generation of Australians. A typical ANZAC Day service contains the following features: introduction, hymn, prayer, an address, laying of wreaths, recitation, “The last post”, a period of silence, “The rouse” or “The reveille”, and the National Anthem. At the Australian War Memorial, following events such as the ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day services, families often place red poppies beside the names of relatives on the Memorial’s Roll of Honour.

On 10 November 1918, thousands of Australian men of the First and Fourth Divisions, First Australian Imperial Force, plodded wearily along the roads near Le Cateau, France. They relieved the British 32nd and 66th Divisions in the front line. Two months previously, these same Australians had fought their way across the Somme in some of the fiercest battles of the war. They did not, however, go into action again.

At 11.00 am on 11 November 1918 the guns fell silent as hostilities ceased on the Western Front, ending four years of death and destruction. Earlier that day, at 5.00 am, the Germans signed an armistice in a railway carriage at Compiègne. In the following year the Treaty of Versailles made the cease-fire permanent.

The world celebrated the permanent ceasefire. Others reflected with great sadness the extraordinary losses and suffering of people from many nations. More than 60,000 Australians were killed. More than 45,000 died just on the Western Front in France and Belgium alone and over 8,000 died on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey.

Over 416,000 Australians volunteered for service in World War I, of which 324,000 served overseas.

In Australia and in allied countries 11th November subsequently became known as Armistice Day. It was a day on which to remember those who died in the Great War.

At the end of World War II, the Australian and British governments changed the name to Remembrance Day. Armistice Day was no longer an appropriate title for a day which would commemorate all war dead.

In October 1997, the Governor-General issued a proclamation declaring 11th November as Remembrance Day. He urged Australians to observe one minutes silence at 11.00am on that day each year in memory of the sacrifice of those who died or otherwise suffered in Australia’s cause in wars and war-like conflicts.

The proclamation reinforced the importance our Government places on Remembrance Day. It encourages all Australians to remember the sacrifices of their forefathers made during all previous wars.

Consists of a dark blue field and the Union Flag occupies upper one-fourth of the Flag. There is a large white star with seven points representing six States and Territories and five white stars representing the Southern Cross.

The length of the Flag is twice the depth of the hoist (FLAGS ACT 1953-73 and “The Australian National Flag” booklet). To be flown with pride befitting our National Emblem.


  • On a staff – top left (union) nearest top of staff.
  • Covering casket at funerals – top left (union) draped over left shoulder of deceased.



The Australian National Flag when flown or paraded takes precedence over all other National Flags. All flags are flown on separate staffs, at same height and all same size.

Half-Masting is a sign of mourning. The flag is taken to the top and then is slowly lowered to half-mast.
(Usually when top of flag is one-third of the distance down.) The Flag is raised again to top before lowering.

The Flag is never used as a cover, but is displayed distinctively alongside or behind.

At these occasions, all persons present are to face the Flag and remain silent. Men remove their hats and persons in uniform salute.

All citizens, public, private organisations may fly the National Flag between 8 a.m. – SUNSET.
At night on special occasions, the flag is correctly illuminated.
The Flag must not touch the ground or floor.


United Nations Day, 24th October, if one position is only available the United Nations Flag should be flown.

Section 8 of the Flag Act, ‘The Act does not affect the right or privilege of a person to fly the Union Jack”.

The Red Poppy was seen to be one of the first living plants that sprouted from the devastation of the battlefields of northern France and Belgium during the First World War.

Since the early 1920s, Red Poppies have been a part of Armistice or Remembrance Day rituals, in ANZAC Day observances and funeral ceremonies for Returned RSL Members and other Ex–Service personnel.

For a history of how the Red Poppy became significant in the above traditional ceremonies please click here to the Australian Memorial Site.

The following provides guidance and the essential elements to ensure the protocol and dignity of the Tribute is maintained. Please click the link below to view the pdf document
Policy and Ritual for Use at Funerals of Veterans PDF

Commemoration at the Australian War Memorial
The Australian War Memorial commemorates the sacrifice of Australians who have suffered and died in war. Discovers some of the ways in which the Memorial helps Australians remember and understand.

National Days of Commemoration: ANZAC Day
ANZAC Day (25th April) is the most important national day of commemoration for Australians. In these pages you can learn how we observe ANZAC Day, as well as something of the tradition and its importance in the life of the nation.

National Days of Commemoration: Remembrance Day
Remembrance Day (11 November) marks the anniversary of the armistice which ended the First World War (1914-18). It is the second of the two major national days of commemoration in Australia. Discover its traditions and current observance.

Wreathlaying Ceremonies
Information about weekly wreathlaying ceremonies for school groups.

Roll of Honour Database
At the heart of the Memorial are a long series of panels recording the names of Australia’s over 102,000 war dead. This is known as the Roll of Honour. An online database compiled from data used to create the Roll is available on this site. Search it for details of those family members or friends who died serving their country.

Commemorative Roll
The Commemorative Roll records the names of those Australians who died during or as a result of wars in which Australians served, but who were not eligible for inclusion on the Roll of Honour. Search it for the names of those Australians who died while members of other allied forces, the Merchant Navy, and philanthropic organisations; or as war correspondents, photographers, artists, or munitions and other workers.