‘The great history war‘, ABC Four Corners, 10 November 2008 (transcript)
Presenter Chris Masters talks to academics, war historians, military tourists and descendants of soldiers. The scenes are Gallipoli and the Western Front. Among the remarks:
PROF. JOAN BEAUMONT, AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY: Ultimately younger generations are socialised into the memory of war by the agencies of State … I think you could argue that in the last 20 years the memory of war has been used to project an image of unity and cohesion in Australian society. Possibly at a time when multiculturalism was changing the, the demographics of Australian society it was seen as advantageous to have a kind of unifying narrative … One definition of a myth is that it’s a story or a charter about the past that legitimates the present and I think you can hear in much of the public discourse today the Anzac legend being invoked to legitimate current military actions.
PETER BURNESS, AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL: Well obviously I’m very proud of the first AIF and where it sits in our history. I see it as Australia’s big story really. It forms Australia, it gives Australia a great confidence and despite that sorrow and grief that came with it, I think it sort of changed our view of ourselves. I still see the AIF as a very distinct force. I’m not talking about better or worse, or anything like that but they had a character all of their own.
PAUL KEATING, EX-PRIME MINISTER: We still go on as though the nation was born again, or even was redeemed there. Which is an utter and complete nonsense. For these reasons I’ve never been to Gallipoli and I never will.
(Excerpt of footage of John Howard at Anzac Day ceremony)
CHRIS MASTERS: While Prime Minister Howard who had a father and grandfather on the western front encouraged memory of this chapter.
JOHN HOWARD, EX-PRIME MINISTER: Never again will such terrible carnage claim the lives of so many of the young men and women of our communities.
DR. PETER STANLEY, NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AUSTRALIA: Governments don’t give resources to history out of the goodness of their heart. They want something from it so the Keating Government for example wanted a greater consciousness of Australia’s relationship with our region.
The Howard Government I presume wanted to venerate the enduring qualities that they saw in the Anzacs that fostered a conservative view of Australian society so I think there’s always an ideological pay off for official sanction or official support for a view of history.