It's only a couple of generations ago that Anzac Day was commemorated in a very solemn way.
The huge majority of New Zealanders at parades in the 1950s, 60s and 70s were "returned men" from the Boer War, World War I and World War II who had experienced conflict first-hand. Anzac Day was a complete shutdown from everyday activities.
Then in the 1970s the dominant male hold on the day began to lessen. Amid claims that war was being glorified the day became effectively a half-holiday, with the morning devoted to remembrance and the afternoon having a sporting and cultural focus to ensure it remained relevant for the emerging generations.
These moves, around 50 years ago, were not met with universal support from the war-time generations. But the changes to Anzac Day, bold at the time, ensured the annual commemoration of the widest possible range of wartime sacrifices would never be forgotten.
We are now remembering our Anzacs another two generations on from those radical changes, yet the remembrance on this special day still touches the hearts of our younger generations - as last year's end-of-driveway suburban commemorations during lockdown showed us.
The forced 70-day closure of the National Army Museum during Covid-19 gave our education team a chance to re-assess our objectives for the museum. The saying "children are our future" could not be more relevant for us as the new Aotearoa NZ Histories curriculum is rolled out.
Back in 2019, through the Education Conversation / Kōrero Mātauranga, our Ministry of Education heard clearly from the education sector, and the wider public, that gaps in knowledge of our Aotearoa New Zealand histories is not OK. As a result, we now have a New Zealand Histories draft curriculum, and huge momentum is building to the implementation across all our school/kura in 2022.
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This is an incredible opportunity and obligation for every one of us working in the museum and heritage sector – we did not need convincing of the value and virtue of engaging society with our past – and now we are uniquely placed not just to respond but to shape and champion this aspirational addition to the core education experience for all children.
Me tiro whakamuri, kia anga whakamua –"if we want to shape Aotearoa New Zealand's future, start with our past". We are very well-placed to support teachers to engage with this curriculum, whether the students arrive by coach as part of a road trip or we connect via digital platforms such as Zoom and Google classrooms.
As teachers are challenged to provide students with access to multiple perspectives of New Zealand history, we are delighted with our pilot programmes completed with a number of schools who have both visited us in Waiouru and engaged through digital platforms.
It is now 106 years since those first New Zealand troops came ashore at Gallipoli, the first major combat role for our forces in the Great War, which cost 2,721 lives and untold physical and mental maiming.
The early morning light of a Dawn Service that remembers this campaign is still the most emotional and compelling commemoration of this unique day.
At the National Army Museum, we are very proud to be entrusted with the important task of engaging current and future generations of school students in remembering the events of the past, hearing the stories and thinking critically about New Zealand's heritage, actively contributing to citizenship and collective development.
• Maree Brannigan is director of the National Army Museum Te Mata Toa.