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Honest History E-newsletter No. 61, 16 December 2019

ISSN: 2202-5561 ©

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Hanukkah Sameach, Happy Holidays to all our readers, whether new, old, or rusted on!

Honest History is not sending Christmas cards this year but is making donations to the Fitzroy Learning Network and Soldier On Australia

Heritage Guardians War Memorial campaign

Since our last newsletter almost three months ago, we have been doing a lot of work with Heritage Guardians, campaigning against the ill-advised and unnecessary $498m program to expand the Australian War Memorial. You can follow the campaign in our campaign diary. Look particularly for our submission on the Memorial’s Referral under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act.

Our arguments against the Memorial project remain as they were in the open letter signed by 83 distinguished Australians in March, as expanded and developed since then: the Memorial is being favoured over other cultural institutions; excessive veneration of the Anzac story overwhelms other themes in our history; the expansion will destroy the Memorial’s character and involve the wanton destruction of the award-winning Anzac Hall; the money would be better spent on direct benefits to veterans and their families; the claim about providing a ‘therapeutic milieu’ for recent veterans is spurious and little more than an excuse for large amounts of floor space displaying superannuated military vehicles.

Stop Press

Peter Stanley in Inside Story reviews a collection of essays on the Great War and its commemoration a century on. ‘Great War history in Australia is unavoidably political.’

Recently on the Honest History site (honesthistory.net.au)

Mark Dapin’s ABC Radio National series ‘Myths of war’; new Australian War Memorial Director; petition to prevent destruction of Anzac Hall at the War Memorial; Department of Veterans’ Affairs survives machinery of government changes.

Book reviews on the Honest History site during 2019

The full list of reviews is here, but note particularly these: Diane Bell on Bruce Pascoe’s collection, Salt; Anne Beggs-Sunter on Sludge, a book by Lawrence and Davies about gold-mining and the environment; Steve Flora on Robert Macklin’s Castaway; Richard Broinowski on Tom Gilling’s Project Rainfall on Pine Gap; Alison Broinowski on Brian Toohey’s Secret; Derek Abbott on Geoffrey Blainey’s memoir and Steve Gower’s book about the Australian War Memorial; David Stephens on Mark Dapin’s Australia’s Vietnam, Romain Fathi’s Our Corner of the Somme, and John Edwards’ John Curtin’s War. Just scroll down the list to find all these and plenty of others.

And talking of book reviews, something to go on with

We recently reviewed and found inspiring Lewis Hyde’s book, A Primer for Forgetting: Getting Past the Past. It took us back to the earlier work of David Rieff (Against Remembrance, In Praise of Forgetting: Historical Memory and Its Ironies). Rieff said this:

What if collective historical memory, as it is actually employed by communities and nations, has led far too often to war rather than peace, to rancour and resentment rather than reconciliation, and the determination to exact revenge for injuries both real and imagined, rather than to commit to the hard work of forgiveness?