You can experience friendship in France, brotherhood in Belarus and camaraderie in Cuba but mateship seems to be quintessentially Australian.
Many associate Anzac Day with mateship in Australia but the roots go back much further.
Origins of Mateship in Australia
The origins of mateship in Australia can be traced back to the early days of European settlement. In the harsh and unforgiving environment of the Australian outback, early pioneers and explorers relied on each other for survival. They formed close-knit communities based on mutual support, trust, and loyalty.
This spirit of mateship was also evident in the gold rush era of the mid-19th century, where miners worked together in dangerous and difficult conditions to extract gold from the earth.
Famous Australian bush writers such as Henry Lawson drew on the concept of mateship, enshrining it as part of the Australian bush tradition of the late 19th century.
However, it was during World War I that the value of mateship came to the fore and became an integral part of the Australian national identity. Australian soldiers, who were part of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), fought in some of the bloodiest battles of the war, including the Gallipoli campaign in 1915. In the face of overwhelming odds and unimaginable hardship, these soldiers developed a strong sense of camaraderie and loyalty towards each other, which became known as the “Anzac spirit”.
The Anzac spirit was based on the idea of mateship, as soldiers relied on each other for survival and support in the trenches. They shared food, water, and shelter, and looked out for each other in the face of danger. This spirit of mateship was also evident in the way that Australian soldiers treated their wounded and fallen comrades, with a deep sense of compassion and respect.
The Anzac spirit and the value of mateship were not just limited to the battlefield. When the war ended, Australian soldiers returned home to a country that was struggling to cope with the aftermath of the war. They faced high unemployment, a struggling economy, and a sense of disillusionment. However, the Anzac spirit and the value of mateship helped to bring Australians together, to support each other and rebuild the country.
Post-war Mateship in Australia
In the years that followed, mateship increasingly became an integral part of Australian culture and society. It was celebrated in literature, music, and art, and was seen as a key value that helped to define the Australian national identity.
The concept of mateship was also evident in the way that Australians responded to natural disasters, such as floods, fires, and droughts. Australians came together to support each other, to lend a helping hand, and to show compassion for those in need.
Mateship in Australia is so important that in 1999 Prime Minister John Howard tried to include it in the constitutional preamble!
Mateship as a core value
We have just commemorated Anzac Day with our GCC service on Monday and participated in community marches across the Sunshine Coast on Tuesday. We remembered the sacrifices made by Australian and New Zealand soldiers in wars and conflicts and honoured their memory by upholding the values they fought for, including the value of mateship.
We are always careful not to romanticise or glorify war with our students. It is a time of respect and sadness. However, I believe the value of mateship is something that could and should be celebrated. Mateship embodies our GCC values of Godliness (loving others as Christ loves us); Respect; Excellence, Attitude and even Teachability (learning how to be a good mate).
When we celebrate our annual You Belong Day and focus on kindness and friendship values among our students, it is the essence of mateship.
If you are talking to your children about the tragedy of war, remind them of the good that happened in the midst of terrible and tragic situations. Remind them of the mateship that is a huge part of the Anzac spirit – mates taking care of mates.
Lest we forget.
Mike Curtis, Principal