Daley, Paul: Australian War Memorial’s rise and rise

Daley, Paul

Australian War Memorial: the remarkable rise and rise of the nation’s secular shrine‘, Guardian Australia, 19 May 2015

Lengthy extracts of interview with Director Brendan Nelson. He touches on the AWM’s tourism pulling power (one ahead of the pyramids in world rankings), Bean’s vision, Indigenous servicemen (getting a monument including a white serviceman), Frontier Wars (not really wars and should be catered for by the National Museum), replacement of the gargoyles at the Memorial, the many innovations he has introduced, plans, the impact of the Great War.

“It is certainly not correct to say that Australia was born at Gallipoli. I mean we’ve got, as I say, centuries of Indigenous history, we’ve got the stories of the making of the nation in every sense of the word and in the federation . . . and the things that were happening in that first decade of the 20th century. But this whole concept of here we are it’s our first military engagement . . . and the nation is told they’ve done us proud. I think that’s what it’s about.”

He explains how he believes young people find meaning in the Anzac legend and how he hopes to mount a special exhibition in 2018 addressing the long-term impacts of the Great War.

“There was an embitterment of public discourse and policy debate following the war … 80% of the men who did return were between the ages of 18 and 24. A lot of them were gassed, limbless, disfigured, psychologically wounded – all of that. Families were carers, you had fatherless families, you had degrees of domestic violence associated with post traumatic stress, you had the pro-conscriptionists and the anti-conscriptionists still deeply embittered and polarised – the shirkers versus those who served. There was a sense that a man who had served or a woman who had gone off … was somehow a better Australian. The Indigenous men who had volunteered came back and returned to a desperately unequal society and were treated unequally,” he said.

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