Anzac Day commemorates all New Zealanders killed in war and honours our returned servicemen and women.
History of Anzac Day
The date itself marks the anniversary of the landing of New Zealand and Australian soldiers – the Anzacs – on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915. The aim was to capture the Dardanelles, the gateway to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea. At the end of the campaign, Gallipoli was still held by its Turkish defenders.
New Zealanders have marked the landings at Gallipoli since news of the event first reached this country, and Anzac Day has been a public holiday since 1921. On this day the people of New Zealand have acknowledged the sacrifice of all those who have died in warfare, and the contribution and suffering of all those who have served.
Over time there have been changes in the way that the day has been commemorated, reflecting the changing features and concerns of our society. During the Second World War, for example, there was increased interest and a heightened sense of the relevance of Anzac Day; in the 1960s and decades following it was from time to time used as a platform for anti-war and other social protest.
Today, at a time when it seems New Zealanders are increasingly keen to assert and celebrate a unique identity, we recognise Anzac Day as a central marker of our nationhood.
The number of New Zealanders attending Anzac Day events in New Zealand, and at Gallipoli, is increasing. For some younger people, the sombre focus of the day receives less emphasis than do the more celebratory aspects of a national holiday. For most, though, the day is an occasion on which to formally pay tribute and to remember.
Anzac Day now promotes a sense of unity, perhaps more effectively than any other day on the national calendar. People whose politics, beliefs and aspirations are widely different can nevertheless share a genuine sorrow at the loss of so many lives in war, and a real respect for those who have endured warfare on behalf of the country we live in.
Visit the Ministry's NZHistory website for a comprehensive online collection of material about the different conflicts New Zealand has been involved in from the internal wars of the 19th century to the First and Second World Wars as well as later conflicts.
Also see the WW100 - First World War Centenary website
Statistical information about New Zealand casualties in overseas wars is here.
Section 17 of the Flags, Emblems, and Names Protection Act 1981 (the Act) prohibits the use of the word ‘Anzac’ in trade or business. The Ministry has compiled some guidelines as to what uses of Anzac or ANZAC will generally not be in breach of the prohibition in section 17.
We recommend using the term 'ANZAC' – with all capitals – only when referring to the specific Corps. For all other uses 'Anzac' is preferred. For example, 'On the Western Front there were two Anzac corps, with New Zealand Division serving in II ANZAC Corps until 1918. New Zealanders who died in war are remembered on Anzac Day.'
Contact us if you have any questions about the use of the term ‘Anzac’.
A copy of the 1916 New Zealand Gazette notice proclaiming Anzac Day as a half-day holiday is available on our NZHistory website.
Legislation passed in 1949 prevented Anzac Day from being 'Mondayised'. The current Anzac Day Act 1966 liberalised activities after 1pm.
In April 2013 the Holidays (Full Recognition of Waitangi Day and ANZAC Day) Amendment Act was passed. This legislation enables an extra public holiday when Anzac Day falls on the weekend.
Updated on 29th May 2020