Centenary Watch: April 2015

Update 27 April 2015: more Anzac angles and more Anzac spend

We brought out another set of links to Anzac centenary commentary to add to the first batch. We noted that, with the announced spend of $100 million on the Sir John Monash interpretive centre in France, government (federal, state and territory) projected spending on the centenary has reached $430 million with at least another $80 million in corporate donations.

Update 25 April 2015: Anzac commentary across the generations

We pretty much ruled a line on our Anzac collection a couple of days ago as we found a lot of the commentary was repeating itself. Today, however, two contributions stood out. One was the extended article from senior Canberra Times journalist, Jack Waterford, who is about to retire after 43 years (though he’ll be continuing to write occasionally) and the other was the perceptive set of questions by much younger (possibly Gen Y) Brisbane public radio presenter, Andy Paine, put to Honest History’s David Stephens in a long interview earlier in the week and available on the 4ZZZ website today. (Starts at about mark 8.0 though the whole program is well worth listening to.)

Update 23 April 2015: sentiment, thought and jingoism in war commemoration; rebooting Anzac for the next century

We repost highlights from a significant article by Elizabeth Samet about how emotion drives out reason in the way we deal with war.

David Stephens makes some suggestions about how to move from Anzac ancestor worship to a useful and proportionate Anzac.

Update 20 April 2015: being Ataturk?

Paul Daley in Guardian Australia looks at the provenance of Ataturk’s words from 1934. There is a link to further research done by Honest History and to articles in Turkish by Cengiz Ozakinci, plus translations.

Update 18 April 2015: TV3NZ on Australia’s Anzac obsession; Gen Y on Anzac

New Zealand television explores Anzackery and makes some links to Iraq. Kate Aubusson in Fairfax (and soon on ABC) asks why her generation has been taken in by the received view of Anzac. Comments facility on both.

Update 17 April 2015: Anzac commemoration spending around $400 million – and rising

We publish figures collated by Ben Eltham of New Matilda suggesting the spend is north of $400 million with more to come – and perhaps a lot more to come, if corporate donations flood in.

Update 15 April 2015: Anzackery magic pudding falls off plate; Four Corners

News this week: Woolworths egg on face over crass Fresh Anzac campaign; Raise a Glass still there but looking sloppy; Spirit of the Anzacs musical tour tuned out before it tunes up. (For earlier story on Spirit of the Anzacs, scroll down to Update 25 March. They had necessary permissions; perhaps they were just too greedy with the ticket prices.)

Alison Broinowski reviews this week’s Four Corners episode. The episode compares soldiers’ experience at Gallipoli and in Afghanistan and the review is called ‘Then and now: two sad affairs’.

Update 14 April 2015: busy Minister Ronaldson; Anzac Portal; Local Grants; Gallipoli conference; G-word on ABC; freedom in Burwood; Zombie Anzacs; Murdoch full circle; earlier updates

Busy Minister Ronaldson

This update is a bit cryptic because so much is happening. Everyone is busy, particularly the Minister. In the last month or so he has officiated at Anzac commemorative events in the electorate of Deakin, at Penrith and at Aberfoyle Park Primary School in Adelaide, posted passes to the winners of the Gallipoli visit ballot, appointed three new members to the Council of the Australian War Memorial, and announced a partnership with Telstra and the Commonwealth Bank (to support the Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience travelling exhibition of Australian War Memorial artefacts, not to be confused with the Spirit of the Anzacs Arena Spectacular, which is a money-making venture giving a nominal donation to charity: see below Update 25 March 2015).

The Minister also launched the RSL Spirit of Anzac Grevillea, announced the names of ten Great War widows going to Gallipoli and spoke at the Gallipoli 1915: A Century On conference (see below), thanking Turkey for its cooperative approach to the centenary, although this speech is not on his website. There have also been mental health initiatives for veterans.

Anzac Portal

We have mentioned this before. A real Menin Gate of a website, it includes resources for teachers and students, veterans’ stories, history, community events, an interactive map showing where the deeds were performed that led to the award of Victoria Crosses to Australians, Anzac posters, a ‘Remembering them’ app and other features.

We plugged the term ‘Honest History’ and variations into the portal’s search facility but predictably came up with no results. As for the site generally, as someone said of ‘Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede Dinner & Show’, ‘If you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you’ll like’. There are bound to be useful resources within for the discerning browser.

Local Grants

Minister Ronaldson announced another tranche of grants under the Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program. To 20 February there had been 1450 grants across 150 federal electorates with funding to the value of $15.8 million. Honest History has thoroughly examined this program previously and expressed the view that the money could have been better spent. (On the other hand, we know of at least three projects funded with this money which are thoughtful and even forward-looking rather than nostalgic and unimaginative.)

We did a quick sample of 50 out of the latest tranche of 461 grants and found that our previous breakdown of projects into categories (new memorial or refurbish old memorial, pageant, preservation) held up, with just over half the sample being grants for new or refurbished memorials. The categories were predetermined by the narrow criteria of the program.

One final point though: the average value of the latest tranche of grants is around $13 700, which is considerably higher than the average value of all of the grants handed out so far (around $10 900). This suggests that, as the program goes on, it is becoming easier to get larger amounts of money out of DVA and it adds to earlier indications that there have been some difficulties on the demand side.

Next time around (perhaps the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II – presumably in the planning stages) broader criteria might generate more applications. Or perhaps we could just spend the money on something useful.

Gallipoli conference

The Australian War Memorial and the Australian National University hosted a conference in March to mark the centenary. Honest History President, Peter Stanley, reports on the conference.

G-word on ABC

The ABC has started a feature on its website called ‘The G-word: Australian reactions to Gallipoli’ which shows 16 Australians some videos on Gallipoli and asks for their reactions. We are looking at it and will say more next time. There is a hashtag also. Our test tasters have had mixed feelings.

Freedom in Burwood

The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) was going to have a public meeting on 26 April in Burwood Library Auditorium in Sydney. The title of the meeting was ‘Anzac Day, the glorification of militarism and the drive to World War III.’

According to the SEP, opponents of the meeting responded to a post on a Facebook page (The Great Aussie Patriot, associated with a website of the same name, which promotes Reclaim Australia events), made complaints to the Burwood Council, threatened to disrupt the meeting, and the Council cancelled the booking. Samples of the Facebook page follow (see 10 April at 10.17 am):

Absolutely fucked! I for one am happy to stand proud and tall to remember our ANZAC’s and anyone who wants to put them down should be shot and called a traitor!

What these halfwits don’t get is if these men and women didn’t lay down their lives then they would not have any rights at all and that includes their freedom of speech and their freedom to do this kind of crap that should be seen in the same light as treason.

My grandfather had his health and the rest of his life ruined in Changi prison during ww2 you filthy fucking grubs so that you have the freedom to spew your filth you gutless fucks. I bet u wouldn’t have the balls to say it in a less civilised society because you know you and your family would disappear.

The SEP says this:

The willingness of the Labor Party-controlled council to align itself with representatives of “The Great Australian Patriot” underscores the correctness of the assessment made by the SEP about the agenda behind the multi-million dollar commemorations of the centenary of World War I and the Anzac landing at Gallipoli. As we wrote in our announcement of the April 26 meetings: “The coming Anzac Day ‘celebrations’ are about the present, not the past. They are part of the conscious efforts of the media, and the corporate and political establishment to indoctrinate youth with patriotism, drown out anti-war sentiment and ideologically condition the population for new military confrontations.”

Honest History asked Burwood Council for a comment (at first by phone and then by email) and this came:

Dear Sir/Madam: Burwood Council has received your email. It will be forwarded to the appropriate Council officer for attention. Should you require further information please contact Customer Service on 9911 9911. Please do not reply to this e-mail.

Burwood Council

Zombie Anzacs

The title of this paragraph comes from HistoryPunk (great tweets!), Jo Hawkins, who wrote in Crikey about the strange spectacle of not just one but two television networks offering the opportunity to exchange electronic messages with dead Anzacs high and low. Previous wars have seen a rise in the popularity of séances, the Australian War Memorial is keen to have children ‘connect’ with the dead by reading out their names and writing them messages but this latest thing is, as we tend to say nowadays, ‘taking it to a whole new level’.

If anyone wants to write a review of these innovative services, including transcriptions of the remarks of the departed, we will gladly publish. If there is more than one entry, we will give a prize to the best (perhaps a complimentary aura polish or a turn at our Ouija board).

Murdoch full circle

Rupert Murdoch’s Daily Telegraph and other titles offer Anzac giveaways during the school holidays and leading up to Anzac Day. On the first day there was a chart showing Australian medals for war service. On the next two days there were free Anzac coins. The promotion is aimed squarely at children. We wonder whether it is working up to giving away facsimiles (perhaps an illustrated children’s version) of the Keith Murdoch letter from 1915. Peter Bradshaw is relevant.

Update 6 April: boozing Anzac

The common thread between cricket and Anzac – in both cases, as seen by Carlton and United Breweries – is beer. Channel 9’s loquacious commentator and former great cricketer, Warnie, shills, intentionally or not, for VB as the lubricant of World Cup celebrations. So, once, did the Governor-General.

In the former case, the free beer goes to blokes who already earn millions. In the latter case, this question arises: does the fact that $1 million (a tiny proportion – less than 0.005 per cent – of the revenues of SAB Miller, owners of CUB) from the Raise a Glass promotion goes to Legacy and the RSL justify the association of these organisations with the peddlers of a product that has been identified as a threat to the well-being of soldiers and former soldiers? Then there is the issue of the use of the Shrine of Remembrance to make a beer-and-Anzac commercial …

Read more …

Update 2 April 2015: downsizing Anzac; Anzackery; NZ calling

Honest History’s David Stephens proposes five reasons for downsizing Anzac. Guardian Australia columnist and Honest History distinguished supporter, Paul Daley, juxtaposes Anzackery and current commemoration-celebration with the treatment afforded Douglas Grant, Indigenous soldier in the Great War. He finds the Australian War Memorial still agonising over how to address issues of Indigenous service, in uniform and out. (Daley’s article is a longer version of the one we noted on 26 March.)

Meanwhile, Tim Leadbeater in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand, has weighed in with some welcome contributions. As they are a long way down this page (we are overdue for archiving) we’ve lifted them up to here. Tim blogs here. Called 100yearsoftrenches, it looks like a good window into New Zealand alternative thinking during the centenary of Anzac.

100 years ago today around 2,500 New Zealand and Australian troops rioted in the Wass’ah district of Cairo. It was an attack on the brothels, pimps and prostitutes – mostly poor working class native Egyptian, Nubians and Sudanese women. For the past four months the Anzacs had been keen customers, but there was also a deep tension and hostility between the imperialist forces and the indigenous people. This came to a head on the afternoon of Easter Friday, and the Anzacs destroyed buildings, assaulted and abused the people working in the brothels. I don’t think that we should take a moralistic view on this, but I think that remembering the indigenous victims of an imperialist and racist act of violence helps to counter both the moronic sentimentalism which characterises Anzac day, and the unfortunate sense of ‘national pride’ which it helps to create. The dark underside of nationalism is racism. Lest We Remember. Here’s my blog piece on this incident.

Also, I recently wrote an article called “The Deceptions of Remembrance: How does the Anzac myth frame WW1 history”. Its a critical review of the “Dunedin’s Great War” exhibit here at the Otago Early Settler’s museum in Dunedin.

More by Peter Stanley on the Cairo unpleasantness referred to above. Peter Stanley’s television account of this incident late in 2013 got the ABC into trouble with a man who now wields a whip in the Australian Parliament.