Stories of service and sacrifice may cause distress.
See this resource list for help.

Why do we commemorate?

Explore this lesson plan that focuses on why we commemorate.

Lesson plan for years 5-9

Information for teachers

  • This lesson looks at why commemorations take place and why commemoration is important to different communities.
  • Your students will learn why Australian national commemorative traditions and rituals contain specific elements and what meanings are embedded in those elements.
  • Your students will learn why, as Australians, they are called upon to take part in acts of remembrance.
  • This lesson can be used to scaffold student participation in a range of commemorations, large and small.
  • We recommend using this lesson in the lead-up to your students attending a service at your school or at the Shrine of Remembrance, or before observing a live streamed commemoration.
  • This lesson is designed to be adapted to suit the needs of your class.
  • Time: 60 minutes.

Equipment needed

  • Device
  • Internet connection

Student activity

Ask students to speculate about what commemoration means and how it is different to celebration. Discuss commemoration as a type of anniversary.

As a group, brainstorm various events (often anniversaries) which Australian communities celebrate or commemorate. Organise the group brainstorm around the question How and why do people choose to remember? Group the events into solemn ones and happy ones.

Consider how we behave in these different types of anniversaries. Commemoration is about respectful observance. We watch, reflect and contribute in a quiet and thoughtful way during a service.

All commemorative ceremonies held at the Shrine are unique. Yet they all contain some of the same elements. Watch this video to hear the Ode of Remembrance and Last Post being sounded.

Anzac Day Dawn Service 2015 - Ode of Remembrance and the Last Post

Invite your students to reflect on their familiarity with these elements of a commemorative ceremony:

  • Do you recognise them?
  • Have you been you an ANZAC or Remembrance Day commemorative ceremony?
  • Why did you go?
  • Who did you go with?

Visit the Australian War Memorial site(opens in a new window) to explore more ceremonial customs.

Below are some photographs taken at commemorative ceremonies that have been held at the Shrine. 

As a class discuss what kinds of people in our community attend ceremonies? And why?

Brainstorm the answers on the board. Some examples might be but are not limited to:

  • current service personnel
  • veterans
  • families
  • students and teachers
  • tourists
  • politicians/community leaders
  • migrants/refugees from countries affected by war.

The Shrine of Remembrance holds the Vision "That all Victorians remember, value and commemorate service and sacrifice”. So, it is the job or the Mission of the Shrine "To engage all Victorians in commemoration through reflection, ceremony, education and learning”. Schools are invited to attend commemorations such as Remembrance Day and Legacy Day. You are encouraged to experience the Shrine through education programs and virtual experiences.

Student task

Allocate one of the brainstormed communities to each student or a small group of students:

  • Imagine you are attending a commemoration as though you are a member of the allocated community.
  • Using technology available in your classroom work through the worksheet.
  • Use the useful links if you need some inspiration.
  • Present your perspective to the class.
PDF 164.01 KB
(opens in a new window)
Worksheet example answer
PDF 941.38 KB
(opens in a new window)

After the commemorative ceremony

As a class reflect on your experience of commemoration:

  • What did you see?
  • What did you hear?
  • How did it make you feel?

Civics and Citizenship

Citizenship, Diversity and Identity (VCCCC016) (VCCCC025) (VCCCC037)


Historical Concepts and Skills (VCHHC086) (VCHHC087) (VCHHC102) (VCHHC126) (VCHHC128)

Intercultural Capability

Cultural Practices (VCICCB009) (VCICCB017)

Personal and Social Capability

Social Awareness and Management (VCPSCSO029)