Anzac Centenary Advisory Board: Report to government March 2013

Anzac Centenary Advisory Board

Report to Government: 1 March 2013, Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Canberra, 2013

The Board’s Chair is Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston (Ret’d), former Chief of the Australian Defence Force. The report is of great interest for its general remarks about Anzac and related themes, for how it has refined the original proposals of the Anzac Centenary Commission into a set of recommendations, and for its list of dates of potential commemorative events.

For Australians, [the report commences] the “Anzac Centenary” will be one of the most significant commemorations to take place in the lives of current generations. The war was a vast tragedy and had profound, devastating and enduring consequences for many nations, their peoples and their families, including in Australia. Alongside the trauma and loss, the war also witnessed the service and sacrifice of thousands of Australian volunteer servicemen and servicewomen. Service and sacrifice that was characterised by courage, endurance, tenacity, resilience, selflessness and mateship. Values that defined a young nation and the character of her people…

When Australians look back at the end of 2018 and reflect on what the Anzac Centenary has meant to them, we hope they recognise it as having been a powerful, engaging and challenging time. That it left a reinvigorated national awareness and increased knowledge of Australia’s military history and the service and sacrifice of earlier and current generations of Australian servicemen and servicewomen. (pp ix-x of the pdf)

There is a sharp focus on the present and future relevance of the Anzac tradition.

The Anzac Centenary will be far more than a recollection of past events. It is as much about the present and the future… The Anzac Centenary is about capturing an inheritance whose values are still relevant today and to our future as a nation. We need to re-express this experience for a changed Australian society in which, thankfully, the Anzac tradition remains strong. It can never be taken for granted. (p. xii)

The centenary will have two related themes, Rabaul to Return, focusing on World War I, and Century of Service, commemorating service and sacrifice in wars and peace-keeping since 1900. (The illustrations in the report depict events from 1902 to 2010.) A strategic framework set up to pursue these themes has three objectives, education, engagement and empowerment, which produce, in turn, three streams of activity, education and research, commemoration and arts and culture. There is also a set of principles.

Under education and research, there will be: a travelling exhibition; the Exhibition in a Box, an initiative of the Australian War Memorial and the National Archives of Australia providing resources for local commemorative exercises; scholarships, grants and a conference; greater recognition of the role of women in the services and on the home front; a remembrance trail on the Western Front; digitisation of a sample of repatriation records from World War I; greater recognition of the role in the services of indigenous Australians and Australians of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds; research on post traumatic stress disorder; media and social media activities; restoration of a World War I submarine sunk in Turkey.

Commemoration will be built around traditional dates, with an enhanced effort at Anzac Day 2015 in Turkey. There will be a big commemorative effort in Albany, Western Australia, in October-December 2014 to mark the centenary of the first convoys. There will also be annual programs of significant domestic and international commemorative events, observances and services, with the dates given well in advance to allow people to plan to attend. (The appendices to the report contain about sixty days and anniversaries, mostly domestic with a few international, under both Rabaul to Return and Century of Service. The lists relate only to the years 2014-15 and they are only ‘indicative’. There are another dozen or more events, from stamp issues to volleyball matches, which are not associated with a particular day.)

Finally, under arts and culture, the report sees ‘scope for all forms of artistic expression to be used to explore and convey to Australians of all ages, backgrounds and cultural and linguistic heritages, the multitude of stories, reflections and messages about Australia’s military experiences’. (p. xix) Among works worthy of support are ‘a Gallipoli Symphony, an Australian War Requiem, an Australian–New Zealand War Art Exhibition, an Australian Defence Force play that personalises Australia’s recent experience of war with performers including veterans who have been physically or mentally wounded in recent operations, and the “Black Diggers” project, inspired by the Indigenous Australians who enlisted during 1914–18’. (p. xix)

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