It was heart-warming and humbling to be part of the 2019 ANZAC Day commemorations at Kaiparoro’s ANZAC Memorial Bridge. Many people from the wider local community and a large number of relatives of those named on the bridge itself were among those in attendance.
Dr Kay Flavell joined the gathering for the first time in many years, and I enjoyed the opportunity to meet the woman behind both the NZ Pacific Studio artist residency initiative (now in its 18th year!) and a key force behind the reinstatement of the bridge itself.
It was also appropriate that Peter Bryson was MC for the day’s proceedings. Peter is a direct descendant of Alfred Falkner – the engineer who designed and helped build the bridge, and whose son and nephew are both among named on the bridge’s commemorative WWI plaque.
Guest speaker for the occasion was distinguished military historian John Crawford from Wellington. John spoke about the then-unknown issues faced by returned servicemen and their families around PTSD, depression and the like, and about how New Zealand in 1919 was a country essentially in a deep depression after the emotional roller coaster ride of the preceding five year period. We are still recovering from the impact of that long-ago war on our people these many years later.
After the service, there was plenty of time for reflection, connection and conversation at Pukaha over a lovely country-style afternoon tea.
What a wonderful and special day! I very much hope that the ANZAC Memorial Bridge will continue to connect Kaiparoro’s growing diaspora for many, many more ANZAC Days to come.