Tradition lives on in the young

Lani Pauli 16 April 2021

He may be only eight years old, but Zephaniah Hartley shows an amazing commitment to remembering and honouring the people who have served Australia on ANZAC Day.

When talking to eight-year-old Zephaniah Hartley, from Yarrabilba in south east Queensland, there’s a sense that it’s true when they say, “The kids are alright.”

Zeph, as he is known to friends, has always shown an interest in ANZAC Day according to his mum, Melinda.

“We have family members in service, past and present, so we’ve often attended ANZAC Day services. Zeph has always been very interested in paying his respects,” she says.

“We have visited the Australian War Memorial twice and he took the visits very seriously. He laid homemade wreaths in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and visited Duntroon in 2019 when his uncle Ben graduated.”


Last year, when COVID restrictions saw the community seek ways to safely commemorate on 25 April, Zeph took the lead on his family’s Light Up the Dawn operation.

“Last year we did Light Up the Dawn in our driveway and I made my own order of service,” he says. “It felt like it was something new to me and it felt special.”

Zephaniah & Charlotte Hartley, 8, plan their Light Up the Dawn ceremony

Zeph’s twin sister Charlotte selected her own poem to read during the service and Zeph read The Ode.

“We made a wreaths, candles and used rosemary from our veggie garden,” he says. “After our service we donated the wreaths to another resident in Yarrabilba who had served in World War Two.”


Zeph is excited to wear his family medals on ANZAC Day – especially after eagerly researching their origins in a book on medals gifted from his grandpa.

The medals he wears were given to Zeph’s third great uncle from World War One and his great grandfather in the National Service. Among these medals are the British War Medal and Australian Defence Medal.

Zeph Hartley, 8, shows off his book of Defence medals

“ANZAC Day is important to me because I get to wear medals in remembrance and honour people who have served their country. For me and for everyone I know,” he says.

This year, with in-person commemorations once again possible, Zeph and his family are planning to go to the Logan Village Dawn Service.

“This will be my first Dawn Service and I think it’ll give me a feeling of honour,” he said.

After the service, Zeph will head home to watch the Canberra service on TV.


Zeph’s uncle Ben has served for three years in the Military Police and serves as inspiration to Zeph who hopes to also join the military.

“It’s really nice that he sacrifices spending time with us to help our country. I miss him a lot,” he shares.

A letter to a serving uncle

“I’m going to join the Cadets when I can in four years. I’m very excited.

“I’m going to have to get really fit playing soccer to get in!”

Zeph’s already dedicated to giving back to his community in his work as a diabetes advocate.

“I have Type 1 Diabetes and I think that joining Cadets, for example, is something I can do that shows the fact I have diabetes doesn’t stop me from doing things that other people can do,” he says.

Zeph, who is insulin dependent, has met with Federal Members and visited Parliament House as part of his work to raise awareness for the condition.

“My favourite part was visiting Parliament House with my mum. It made me feel really proud.”