ANZAC And The Spirit Of The Southern Cross

The Australian Flag

The Australian Flag

  From Eureka to Ned Kelly, from Gallipoli and in the minefields of Victoria, to the birth of the ALP… the Southern Cross flag has been the symbol for a rebellious and proud Australian spirit.

It’s the smallest of the 88 modern constellations. This constellation of five stars can be seen only from the southern hemisphere and is a reminder of Australia’s geography. Crux as it is called by astronomers is circumpolar and thus always visible in the night sky. Stars of Crux appear on the flags of Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Samoa… and perhaps a few others I’m unaware of.

The Southern Cross was written into the lyrics of “Advance Australia Fair” in 1901: “Beneath our radiant Southern Cross.” The 1974 Australian America’s Cup Challenger was named “Southern Cross” The Commonwealth Bank of Australia uses a stylized image of the Southern Cross as a corporate logo. “Southern Cross” is also a 1982 song by the classic rock group Crosby, Stills and Nash..

 Indigenous stories of Southern Cross

There are a number of different Indigenous stories of Crux and the Pointers. To the aboriginal people of the central desert, the Southern Cross is the footprint of the wedge-tailed eagle, and the two pointers are his throwing stick.

Stories from the Noongar people of Western Australia depict the stars of Crux as five naughty youngsters who scattered when a spear was thrown at them. Another Noongar story has the stars of Crux and the pointers as seven sacred men/spirits who came to Earth and made the laws, and started the 14 different language groups to re-establish the good marriage state.

 Several stories of Crux emerge from different Indigenous groups in Victoria, with the Pointers (α and β Centauri) signifying brothers for many people including the Wotjobaluk, Kurnai, Ya-itma-thang and Kurnai. For the Wotjobaluk, these brothers are known as Bram Brambult. They speared and killed Tchingal the Emu (whose head is the Coalsack), who was chasing Bunya the Possum – the star at the head of the cross (γ Crucis).

In the Kulin’s stories the Pointers were two of the creator spirit Bunjil’s young men, Djurt-djurt and Thara. The Kulin also believed two stars of the Cross represented Yukope, the green parakeet, and Dantum, the Blue Mountain parrot. For both the Kurnai and the Ya-itma-thang, the Southern Cross was an emu.

Anzac Day And The Southern Cross

What is Anzac Day? ANZAC Day – 25 April – is probably Australia’s most important national occasion. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.

What does ANZAC stand for?

ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The soldiers in those forces quickly became known as Anzacs, and the pride they took in that name endures to this day.

Why is this day special to Australians?

When war broke out in 1914, Australia had been a federal commonwealth for only 13 years. The new national government was eager to establish its reputation among the nations of the world. In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in order to open the Dardanelles to the allied navies. The ultimate objective was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul in Turkey), the capital of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany.

 The Australian and New Zealand forces landed on Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders. What had been planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated, after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships.


Over 8,000 Australian soldiers had been killed. News of the landing on Gallipoli had made a profound impact on Australians at home, and 25 April soon became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in the war.

 Although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives, the Australian and New Zealand actions during the campaign left us all a powerful legacy. The creation of what became known as the “Anzac legend” became an important part of the identity of both nations, shaping the ways they viewed both their past and their future.

 Go Find The Southern Cross

I want you to find the Southern Cross. It’s easy, just look for the shape of a ‘kite’ high up in the South Eastern sky. The distinctive shape can be seen all year round from almost anywhere in the Australia. Astronomers call it Crux, but we know it better as simply ‘The Cross.’

Thousands of years ago the four stars that make up the cross were an object of worship in the Near East.  It was last seen from the latitude of Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion of Christ. Some say it foretold the event. What do you think?

Look below the cross to see the two bright pointer stars aimed directly at the Southern Cross itself. They’re in a straight line.  The bottom one is Alpha Centauri, our closest star. Through a small telescope it splits in two single stars that actually orbit each other every 80 years! Try for it. This is a real test of your eyesight and once you split the two you’ll be amazed.

How Are Your Eyes?

 This is a real test of your eyesight and once you split the two you’ll be amazed. Alpha is a star similar to our own and may have its own solar system. Imagine, any living beings on a planet there would see two huge sunrises and sunsets every day, one yellow and one orange!

 There is third star in the system, a smaller one called ‘Proxima Centauri’ and it’s technically the nearest star to us, not counting our Sun. Its light takes over four years to reach us. A journey to Proxima would take a very long time, 45 million years by car, 900 million years on foot and a whopping 100,000 years by the fastest space craft!  Whew!

 Grab your telescope and look at the left side star of the cross. Below it you’ll find a beautiful star cluster called the Jewel Box, so named because it looks like millions of pieces of ground glass. They’re really colourful supergiant stars, reds and blues intermingled with yellows and whites in a region of sparkling light.

Comments Abound!

“Brilliant” is the word usually used to describe The Jewel Box.  It’s considered one of the most beautiful sights in the night sky Stars are not scattered, they’re gathered together into vast groups known as galaxies. Ours is the Milky Way and contains about 100 billion stars. Outside that, there are hundreds of millions of other galaxies out there.

Just below the Jewel Box is a dark patch against the Milky Way – the Coalsack, one of the nearest dark nebulae to Earth. Dark nebulae are stellar recycling factories – they’re clouds of interstellar dust from stars that have exploded. This dust eventually coalesces under incredible gravity to form new stars. Because the dust blocks out the light from background stars, nebulae appear as dark patches against the Milky Way.  Source: Dave Reneke  – Credits: Fred Watson and ABC

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