Anzac day is a celebration of the commitment and sacrifice of the young men and women who served in battles, under the Australian and New Zealand flag, in years past. As it is a declared public holiday, most of us spend our time making Anzac biscuits, throwing ‘snags’ on the ‘Barbie,’ or even attending a Dawn or Remembrance service, whilst others just chill out.
Where and when did this tradition start? Last week, I visited a former workplace of mine which, I was surprised to find, (according to Wikipedia), was significant in the first Anzac day. The Land Administration Building in George Street, Brisbane has, at various times, since its completion in 1905, housed the Queensland Department of Lands, the National Art Gallery, the Executive chambers of the Queensland Parliament, and the State’s Departments of Mapping and Surveying, until the nineties, when it was converted to a five star hotel providing accommodation for the Treasury Casino.
My former workplace for 8 years: my desk sat between these two columns. Once only a window, today steps and a doorway have been sensitively added. Local materials were used in the construction and this window fronting Queens Park in central Brisbane overlooks a somewhat glum statue of Queen Victoria. [Some years ago, Queens Park enjoyed some less than salubrious residents, being as it was, a haunt of the aged, homeless folk of the inner Brisbane.] There was no sign of them this day.
The exterior of the building, along with the front of the neighbouring Treasury, features architectural features from construction methods of the past, such as banded rustication, Ionic colonnades, balconies and sculptured facades. The lift, (yes, there was one!), had walls that comprised a fancy metal cage, a bit like you see in old French movies and it operated at a snail’s pace, in fact, the snails would probably beat you to the second floor.
Air conditioning is almost a pre-requisite in the harsh Queensland summer, but during the time I worked there, the high ceilings, thick sandstone/freestone walls, marble floors, and wide stairwells meant the building was actually very well ventilated, naturally cool and surprisingly comfortable. I recall the government did provide their employees with a ‘government issue’ towel, presumably for mopping one’s brow if the stress of the workplace got too much! 😛
The entrance vestibule, at the rear door, features stained glass windows with allegorical depictions of the backbone of the state’s economy: ie. mining and agriculture. [and the kangaroo makes a cameo appearance!) Furthermore, each room contained one or two large wooden mantlepieces constructed from more of the state’s natural assets: timbers such as maple, cedar, silky oak and black bean.
One of my co-workers at the time, wrote a book about the building’s construction by the main contractor, Arthur Midson, who just happened to be the author’s grandfather. But the building is personally significant, for me, as I met my life partner there, and next week we will visit this building again to eat in a restaurant, located in the very same room in which we both worked!
But getting back to Anzac day: Wiki tells us this: “Of particular importance is a marble tablet set into the wall of the George Street entrance inscribed with the message sent by King George V to the people of Australia on 25 April 1916, establishing the Anzac Day tradition.”
I often noticed this particular stone/ marble tablet, but was completely oblivious to its significance to Anzac day until today. Lest we Forget.
Something to Ponder About on Anzac day.