Photography: Robert Blackburn
40,000 Victorians turned out to the Shrine of Remembrance as dawn broke on April 25, all with one thing in common - the desire to pay respects to past and present servicemen and women.
Today, we bring you some of the brave people we honour on ANZAC Day. Here are the faces behind our commemorative activities:
Flanked by her granddaughters and son-in-law, 95-year-old Valma Coleman travelled from Sydney for the ANZAC Day March.
“It’s wonderful to be here today. I enjoy it every year.”
Proudly wearing her father medals from his service in the Air Force, she also has her late husband not far from her mind.
“My husband always marched on ANZAC Day. He was in the Navy. He’s been gone a while…”
While Valma is supporting from the sidelines, she looks on proudly as she watches her daughter take part in the March.
“She was in the Navy also. I come from a family of service people.”
Vietnam veteran Tim Costa was drafted into service.
“I say this to a lot of friends, it’s the only raffle I ever won!”
He served for two years, one of which was in Vietnam.
“You tend to remember the good things. I served with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment and they were there full-time and once you did your 12 months you flew back home and someone else came and took your place.”
Today, he proudly marched for the 38th time.
“It’s a personal thing, I remember my mates that aren’t here. If we don’t March, then the whole concept of Anzac day is gone. When we are gone, it’ll be up to the next generation of service men and women.”
Holding her grandfather’s hand, 9 year old Scarlett says it’s very special to be marching with her grandad.
“He was a very good soldier.”
Former clearance diver in the Royal Australian Navy, Able Seaman Sam Lane marched to pay his respects.
He served for four years.
“It’s such a sense of pride marching. And I remember everybody else that’s done their job.”
Sam marched with his two children aged 6 and 8.
“It’s important so they know about it, so they know about the respect component of it all.”
As he looks around at the hundreds of other ex service men and women marching, Sam is humbled.
“I didn’t do quite as much as these boys…”
It’s hard to miss 10-year-old Rafael Smith in the crowd.
Dressed in suit and bow tie, Rafael is holding up a big “thank you” sign.
“We are here to remember those who died in the war and those who have helped us get this far.”
Not a stranger to the ANZAC Day March, Rafael is filled with pride.
“I’m just proud at what people have done and fought in different wars.”
Steven Frerk served for 19 years.
Of those, he spent 15 years with the SAS and 4 with 1RAR.
“I’m here today as a remembrance of my service and it’s always good to see a few guys I served with”.
Standing by the Eternal Flame at the Dawn service, Aidan Smith (centre) soaked in the atmosphere.
“It’s incredibly special to hear thousands of people fall silent during the Dawn service. It’s a great testament to our nation that we have this moment to pause and reflect.”
He says, sometimes, saying nothing says a lot.
“Just to listen and to hear the stories of service and sacrifice is a poignant profound thing.”
The 20 year old is a dedicated Dawn service attendee.
“Ever since I was a kid I’ve been standing at a Dawn service. I always try to make it here to be part of it.”
His heart and mind turns to his family on ANZAC Day.
“I’ve got a service connection through my Australian and English roots, members of my family have served.”
“For me, it’s a nice way to pay my respects and also honouring all those Australians that have fought in wars past and present.”
As a recent arrival in Australia, Balkisa Binhaidun wanted to immerse herself in the long-held tradition that is ANZAC Day.
“I never have seen this before. We woke up at 4am to see what’s happening.”
Unsure of what to expect from the Dawn Service, Balkisa was caught up in the emotions of it all.
“I felt proud and happy that I got to experience what I’ve never experienced before. Even in Malaysia we don’t have something like this.”
Still learning about the history and meaning behind the day, Balkisa is getting the gist of it all.
“It’s a day to recognises people who have fought for freedom.”
When Karanjit Singh immigrated to Australia in 2009 from India he wanted to serve his new county.
Karanjit enlisted in the army and served for 5 years.
“This is amazing, to see people from so many different religions and backgrounds come to remember the fallen heroes is a great feeling.”
Karanjit and his wife Jaspreet Kaur brought their 6 year old son to the Dawn Service.
“To remember the Sikh’s who fought and show him all the history what we’ve gone through, to learn how they can serve their country.”
6 year old Harjee already has his sights set on the joining the Air Force one day.
Gonzalo Bruna and his mates from the Military Motocyle Club attended the Dawn Service.
“It’s very meaningful to be here today. I’ve got a lot of friends who I served with who have passed on and it’s just a reminder of the sacrifices they made for us to have what we have today.”
Gonzalo served for 10 years in the army.
“My father served in his home country, and I just felt duty bound that one day I was going to be a soldier.
He says he would do it all over again..
“In the beginning it was all about working with the big toys, the tanks etc, but then it became so much more - the mateship, the camaraderie, you make friends for life, they become family.”
Gonzalo is a big advocate for supporting his fellow ex-servicemen.
“Being ex servicemen, we love motorbikes and we love to ride. We are a family that provide support to each other. Mental health is a big issue and we are an extension of our family and we are there for each other.”