The 'Digger' is
a key piece of a complex jigsaw puzzle that
makes up the Australian. However, defining
the Digger is like defining 'Class'; it's
hard to describe but you know it when you
Digger is an Australian everyman, and Australians
have the essence of the Digger within them. The
spirit emerges when the individual calls on it in
times of need.
The image of the Digger is
derived from an intricate amalgam of qualities; each has been proven in the
heat of battle and has been displayed at various times by remarkable members
of the tribe. Chief among these qualities are mateship, courage, compassion,
endurance, selflessness, loyalty, resourcefulness, resilience,
self-reliance, devotion, independence, ingenuity, audacity, coolness,
larrikinism and humour.
The Digger comes in all shape
and sizes and from all walks of life. He, (and now she), has something of
the Australian ethos of the volunteer, for historically most Diggers have
not been regular army soldiers but volunteers for a specific cause, and they
have returned with regret to their former civilian lives after their
Originally, many Diggers'
came off the land; practical, self-reliant men, accustomed to hardship:
skilled horsemen, good shots, men good with their hands. But when, in later
years, the vast majority of the Diggers' came from the cities, there seemed
to be little lost in the effectiveness as a force. Some will argue that the
Digger is largely a myth, that as a fledgling nation we needed heroes, we
created them at Anzac and we've built on those myths ever since. And it is
true that mankind has always had its myths. But myths are, to some degree,
based on fact. Any examination of the essence of the Digger stands up to
If anything, many of the
remarkable feats claimed of the Digger are underplayed. Countless heroic
acts have gone unnoticed and unrewarded in all wars in which they have
participated. The system of decorations and awards for bravery adopted by
the Australian Army has always militated against the fair recognition of the
valour of the men involved.
The nature of the Digger has
also meant he has been reticent to talk about his combat experiences, yet
every Digger with combat experience can give scores of examples of heroic
acts that he witnessed but which have gone without recognition. There is
humility and self-effacement that seems to be part of the Diggers' make-up.
Diggers' are respected
everywhere they turn up.....Timor, Iraq, but we don't always give credit to
our own people. We often forget them. He is one of the best warriors, a
compassionate man. Others may have some of his qualities, but there is
something about the Australian soldier under pressure that draws on things
we have inherited from the land and settlement and the way we have come to
terms with it. They are not all heroes but they are remarkable.
When we speak of Diggers' It
means the whole defence force.....airmen, sailors and woman. Yes, women have
the same qualities and they have integrated so well into the defence forces.
Indeed, I believe you don't
have to wear a uniform to be a Digger. We are all Diggers' in spirit. You
see it all in stressful situations and disasters.....Bali to bushfires; and
above all our compassion is one of the qualities that set us apart from
But I promise you, if again,
we are up against and face extreme adversities like Gallipoli, which gave
birth to our nation; and the Kokoda Campaign where we grew up, we will
uphold those same qualities, and we have done so since with those battles
that have followed.