Daley, Paul: Sparing no expense on Anzackery

Daley, Paul

Australia spares no expense as the Anzac legend nears its century‘, The Guardian Australia, 15 October 2013

Notes the mystical place of Gallipoli in Australian history and how this is reflected in ever-increasing expenditure on the Anzac centenary.

Next year, perhaps we should look beyond the battlefield and consider closely what happened at home during and after the war.

Australia was bitterly divided, twice denying the government the right to conscript. From a population of some five million, more than 416,000 Australian men – about half of all those eligible – enlisted. Of the 331,000 deployed, some 60,000 were killed. More than 155,000 more were wounded. This excludes the psychologically and emotionally damaged – the tens of thousands who returned with the crippling affliction, unacknowledged for another 60 years, of post traumatic stress disorder.

Naturally such tragedy profoundly shaped Australia’s view of itself. The shell-shocked, like the limbless and disfigured, were kept from view while the nation mourned its lost generation and stoically got on with the task of building the nation. The front doors were bolted shut – hiding the domestic violence, the untouched dinners, the terrified kids, the countless suicides, the rampant alcoholism and the morphine addiction.

That is all an unsavoury but critical part of the first world war narrative. But will it be told in the centenary? Or will we just get guts and glory?

The author quotes Peter Stanley: ‘The centenary seems fated to become a festival of “Anzackery”, as [the eminent labour historian Professor] Stuart Macintyre calls it, rather than a real opportunity to understand what the war did to Australia’.

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