Centenary Watch: December 2014-January 2015

[Links checked 27 October 2017 and some were found to be broken, due to removal of material from websites or simply the passage of time. Honest History may be able to help users track down resources where a link is broken. Please contact admin@honesthistory.net.au. HH]

Update 8 January 2015: David Stephens interview on World Socialist Web Site

Under the heading ‘Governments want a history that reflects their agenda’, the interview ranges widely over aspects of how governments seek to influence how history is presented, particularly during the Great War centenary.

Update 29 December 2014: Antidote to Anzackery

Paul Daley in Guardian Australia writes that the State Library of New South Wales is offering members of the public a unique insight, free of the politically motivated and manipulated filter of Anzackery – into the thoughts and writings of the men and women of the Great War.

Update 22 December 2014: The Water Diviner reviewed

Honest History committee member Alison Broinowski reviews Russell Crowe’s film, noting that the film ‘avoids all the CEW Beanery that I anticipated and shrewdly subverts a lot of it’. Update 15 January: more reviews giving a range of slants on this movie.

Update 19 December 2014: Albany commemoration numbers; Local Grants update

The Albany local paper Great Southern Weekender has a story (page 3) about a local trader being disappointed by the fewer-than-expected numbers attending the Albany convoy commemoration. Other sources make a similar point: here; here. It seems that around 60 000 visitors were expected and around 40 000 came.

The organisers of an alternative commemoration in Albany report that they had about 250 (mostly supportive) people through the doors over a few days and many hundreds from Australia and globally visiting the associated modest website, called Reimagining Peace. They felt that many people had not previously thought about the issues raised in their exhibition. Co-convener Della Foxglove had told Guardian Australia‘s Paul Daley that ‘we regard the distinction between “celebration” and “commemoration” as very fragile and too amenable to politicisation and the adoption of people’s compassion to validate yet more war and militarism into the future’.

Meanwhile, Minister Ronaldson has announced another tranche of grants under the Anzac Centenary Local Grants program. The details are here. We may do an analysis of these to follow our earlier work (search our website under ‘local grants’ or scroll down ‘Centenary Watch updates’) but our quick glance suggests the size and purpose of the grants are much as previously. (The look of the DVA website has been updated.)

Update 15 December 2014: free speech about Anzac in Marrickville

The Gallipoli Centenary Peace Campaign website reports a successful battle in Marrickville Council to ensure that a public debate about Anzac could go ahead around Anzac Day next year.

Update 13 December 2014: Anzac Centenary Public Fund Board to be abolished

The Anzac Centenary Public Fund Board will be abolished. This is not really a big deal. The government will be saving itself sitting fees for two or three meetings a year and perhaps a bit of travel money. Most of the work will continue to be done in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Read more …

Update 2 December 2014: Minister Ronaldson announces; World War I galleries; Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG to chair Australia Day Council; National Library hits and misses; Queensland puts a twist on Anzac brand; No Glory firing on all cylinders; Twistory

Minister Ronaldson announces

The Minister assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of Anzac, Senator Michael Ronaldson, announced $7.45 million in funding through the Anzac Centenary Public Fund, including major works at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne and the Hyde Park Memorial in Sydney. He followed up with announcements about funding a memorial to war correspondents, a large number of small grants to veterans’ support groups, and a small number of large grants under the Saluting their Service program.

The criteria for these grants seem to overlap and some projects which have appeared in these announcements might just have easily qualified under the Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program, which Honest History has been following closely (see below ‘Local grants: updated 9 November’ and elsewhere in Centenary Watch). The war correspondents’ memorial money, for example, is roughly 80 per cent under Saluting their Service and 20 per cent under Local Grants. The grant was announced twice, just to make sure.

World War I galleries

The Australian War Memorial has re-opened its World War I galleries after a $34 million refurbishment. The dioramas have been cleaned up, there is new interactive capacity and there is said to be more recognition of what Australia was like before Gallipoli. We intend to review the new galleries, along with the National Library’s Keepsakes exhibition (see below). Meanwhile, there is some rather startling rhetoric from Director Nelson to consider. ‘Those Australians who are able have not only an opportunity but a responsibility to see the First World War galleries. Every nation has it’s story – this is our story.’ (Emphasis added.)

Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG to chair Australia Day Council

The Prime Minister announced that Victoria Cross winner Ben Roberts-Smith is to be the new chair of the National Australia Day Council. This follows a tradition of appointing mainly sporting celebrities (John Newcombe, Kevan Gosper, Lisa Curry-Kenny, Adam Gilchrist) to the post. (Media celebrity Phillip Adams broke the sequence.) It is not clear whether the new appointment signals a change in the nature of Australia Day celebrations. Most of the work for Australia Day is done by public servants, led by CEO Jeremy Lasek.

National Library hits and misses

The National Library of Australia has just opened its exhibition Keepsakes: Australians and the Great War, which seems to have a nice balance between front line and home front. We will confirm this with a closer look and possibly a review.

On the other hand, the PANDORA section of the Library, responsible for archiving websites, has commenced a collection of Anzac Centenary websites. To date, the Library has found room in this collection for sites such as 2015 Centenary of Anzac: Australian National Band Championships, Camp Gallipoli, and Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours Gallipoli 2015, government sites, and others which follow closely the received view of Anzac or seek to make money from it. On the other hand, it has not yet included sites like Honest History and peace group sites, which present an alternative view. Honest History thinks this is a narrow approach and is seeking to have it changed through the appropriate channels.

Queensland puts a twist on Anzac brand

The State Library of Queensland has launched an initiative ‘to uncover new Queensland stories and treasures, and generate insights, conversations and experiences that honour and embrace the enduring Anzac spirit’. While the overall Queensland commemorative effort is branded ‘ANZAC CENTENARY QUEENSLAND’ the SLQ’s contribution is called ‘Q ANZAC 100’ and sub-titled ‘Memories for a New Generation’. Births, Deaths and Marriages in Queensland also offers commemorative Anzac centenary certificates (specify poppy, soldier or koala motif) with part proceeds going to Soldier On.

No Glory firing on all cylinders

Meanwhile, in the former Home of Empire, the well-funded and well-stocked No Glory in War 1914-1918 website continues to present an intelligent, many-sided alternative view of commemoration. Among current titles on the site are ‘How Remembrance Day ceremonies and parades make young men keen to go to war’, ‘Ten lies we’re told to justify the slaughter of 20 million in the First World War’ and ‘Why no black poppies on Remembrance Day to represent 16,000 First World War refusers?’ Readers may not agree with everything on the site but the debate is certainly healthy.


Again, catch our Twistory offering on Twitter (follow @honesthistory1). Apart from tweets about items on the Honest History website and matters that attract our attention there is a daily Twistory tweet, a random note from newspapers of a century ago (to the day). Twistory is at once a testament to the wonderful Trove resource at the National Library of Australia and an insight (140 characters at a time) into the lives of Australians then, at war and at home. We have easily reached our target of 500 followers before the centenary of the Christmas Truce (520 at 1 December) but would love to get many more.