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BALLOT OR NOT TO BALLOT? THAT IS NOT THE QUESTION

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Dr John Basarin, Research Fellow, Deakin University & Project Manager, Gallipoli-2015
Email: john.basarin@deakin.edu.au

Betty Roland, from Western Victoria, stood at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, Turkey on Anzac Day, all by herself, and felt the strong emotion of sadness overcome her loneliness [Fewster, Basarin & Basarin, 2003]. This was in 1961. In the intervening 50 years, the situation has changed significantly. The then Prime Minister’s pilgrimage with Gallipoli veterans in 1990 and simulcasting of the ceremony from Gallipoli by ABC opened the flood gates.
In those days, the Anzac Day commemorations were held near Anzac Cove at Beach Cemetery. But due to the increase in numbers, the ceremonial ground was shifted to a purpose built location at North Beach in 2002 with a capacity of 15,000. The number of participants increased against all predictions where in 2005, an estimated 20,000 people gathered at Gallipoli on Anzac Day. This level of attendance is disputed by some and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs introduced measures to improve the count.
 
Nowadays, the authorities put on a wristband to each entrant to the area, so the precise numbers are known. However, for the unique event of Centenary of Anzac in 2015, it will be a challenge to estimate the expected numbers. But the expectation is to be around 50,000.  Again, another figure disputed by some for obvious reasons.

After the 2005 event, an outcry followed regarding the inadequacy of the facilities, piling up of rubbish, waiting many hours for the buses to take them to their destinations, etc. However, in the last few years, the authorities have considerably improved the situation at Gallipoli, although numbers never came close to the 20,000.

The high level of dissatisfaction with the return trip by bus from Lone Pine still exists due to the congestion of the traffic at Gallipoli. In many instances, the participants, after the Lone Pine ceremony, had to wait for their buses to pick them up which usually resulted in a delay of several hours. This is an area that still requires significant improvement with the scenario of many hundreds of buses trying to pick up thousands of attendees after the Lone Pine ceremony. This is not an experience attendees appreciate after an emotional and long and cold sleepless night.
There is anecdotal evidence that the attendees at the Gallipoli ceremonies are mainly young people. In a recent survey, this point was conclusively shown to be the case [Basarin, 2011]. 
 
 

According to a recent Deakin University PhD thesis [Basarin, 2011], the most important experience for the participants at the Anzac Day commemorative event at Gallipoli is the ceremonial part itself. The amenities are of secondary importance and also they are easier to remedy with further resourcing the event. However, the format and content of the ceremonies require significant thought to ensure authenticity, respect and solemnity.

Balloting proposed by the Federal Government and presumably agreed by the New Zealand and Turkish Governments, would limit the numbers to the perceived capacity at the Gallipoli ceremonial grounds. This would also make it easier to control the crowds, ensure security and provide a memorable ceremonial experience. It would also limit the expenditure to a figure that would be comparable to the spending allocated each year by the Governments. Hence it seems like an ideal solution.

However, what about the 40,000 or so punters who lost the ballot who wish to attend the ceremonies one way or another because this is one of the most significant national and historical national events of the country. The Gallipoli campaign of 1915 is the seminal moment in Australian, New Zealand and Turkish histories as the spiritual beginnings of their nations. To deny people their wish to witness this once in a lifetime event is an important point the Governments need to justify, if they can. The argument that this is an event similar to the Olympics and hence the introduction of balloting where demand exceeds the supply does not hold water as the Centenary of Anzac at Gallipoli will not happen again until 2115.

There are many potential places near Anzac Cove, both North and South, that could hold many thousands of people. These locations could easily be found, and with some expenditure could be turned into a location where attendees could watch the dawn breaking over Gallipoli on Anzac Day. The technology today allows simulcasting of the ceremonies at any location on giant screens which could provide the participatory mood of this unique event. This is the least Governments could do to allow people the once-in-a-life time opportunity to see the spiritual birth of their nations.

References

1. Basarin, V. [2011], Unpublished Doctor of Philosophy degree thesis, Deakin University, 2011.

2.Fewster, K., Basarin, V. & Basarin, H.H. [2003], Gallipoli – The Turkish story, Allen & Unwin, Sydney.
 

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