ABC The Signal Podcast [with Brendon Kelson*, former War Memorial Director]
‘Correcting the war record‘, ABC, 3 December 2020
Brendon Kelson talks to Stephen Smiley and Angela Lavoispierre. Is there room at the Memorial to recognise both heroes and war criminals?
The Anzac legend grew from 1915, faded, then came roaring back. How does the legend square with Brereton? How do we deal with the wrongdoers without blackening the rest? Briefly discusses the furore over the Meritorious Unit Citation as an example. (More: update 2 December.)
Kelson talks about the early history of the Memorial. He addresses whether it has presented our war history honestly over its lifetime since.
What’s missing? There’s the Surafend massacre after World War I as an example, and the killing of Japanese prisoners. The stories can’t be only about heroes; they were not only heroes. Professor David Livingstone Smith‘s work shows combatants mostly (98 per cent) experience guilt. A two per cent minority have psychopathic tendencies, but they also tend to be the heroes.
There has been in recent years a risk of the Memorial serving the propaganda purposes of government.
There is no question that the bad side of SAS activity deserves serious attention at the Memorial; we can’t just have the sanitised side. Exposure of all sides could have a therapeutic purpose for those who were there.
Kelson hopes there is a mood for truth-telling in the future. He commends Director Anderson and Minister Chester in this regard for their recent remarks. (More: update 2 December.) We need, however, to apply truth-telling to all the Memorial’s exhibitions. Talking about why we went into wars and the aftermath of them is the beginning of truth-telling.
* Brendon Kelson was Director of the War Memorial 1990-94 and is a member of the Heritage Guardians group, opposed to the current plans for a $498m extension to the Memorial.