Ordinary Australians made Anzac Day what it is and public opinion will probably determine its demise sooner rather than later, according to one of the country's leading war historians.
Professor Robin Prior's stark assessment of the future of our unofficial national day matches research showing fewer Australians intend going to a ceremony or march this April 25, and a growing number believe the Anzac story is losing its relevance.
Fifty-eight per cent of Australians are likely to attend an Anzac Day event this year, according to the results of a poll conducted by Pollinate and 50 Acres, exclusively for AAP .
Asked if they'd previously gone along to show their support, 72 per cent said they had.
South Australians are less keen to participate this year than people in other states and territories, with 44 per cent expected to turn up.
Victorians are slightly more enthused, with 49 per cent planning to go, while Queensland (66 per cent) and NSW numbers (63 per cent) are also expected to be down on past years.
Prof Prior believes the explanation is partly to do with COVID and partly a mystery.
"We are relying now on families, in particular, going to Anzac ceremonies rather than the veterans themselves and I suppose that might be falling off," he said.
"It will be interesting to look at these figures next year to see if we can isolate what impact COVID has actually had."
Even so, it appears an increasing number of Australians have already made up their minds.
The survey of more than a thousand people found that while almost all agree Anzac Day is well respected, a third hold the view that its significance is being forgotten.
It's a belief apparently held more strongly among rural communities (37 per cent) and women (36 per cent).
"It's quite high," Prof Prior said. "What's interesting is whether as we get further and further away from the world wars, that trend will continue.
"Maybe it's distance. It's been a very long time now since 1945 let alone 1915. That figure, though, I would have thought, does not bode well for Anzac Day."
After a bleak period for attendance at dawn ceremonies and marches during the 1960s and 70s due largely to the Vietnam War backlash, Prof Prior said numbers swelled again in the 80s and until recently, at least, had held steady.
"It was the public who in the first place decided what Anzac Day would become," Prof Prior said.
"And if the public again decides it's not so relevant to them, they'll just stop going."
Australian Associated Press