Centenary Watch: July-August 2014

[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. Please contact admin@honesthistory.net.au. HH]

Update 15 August 2014: Victorian school children standing up like soldiers

Victorian Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Damian Drum, tweeted a picture of school children standing up in an assembly. The caption read: ‘@Anzac100Vic roadshow at Bendigo South East College, those standing would likely have enlisted during ww1′.

The roadshow is an official Victorian Government activity. It is not clear what else happened in the assembly, particularly how balanced a presentation was given about the implications of enlisting for the soldiers and their families.


The Minister tweeted this to Honest History’s Twitter account at approximately 6.30 pm: ‘@honesthistory1 @Anzac100Vic this was on % of people that enlisted during WW1, demonstrating the devastating affect it had on community’. By 9.00 pm the tweeted picture had been taken down.

Update 4 August 2014: Ministerial manoeuvres; Anzac alternative coalitions; Britain, New Zealand, Queensland and Victoria

Ministerial manoeuvres

Anzac centenary Minister Ronaldson gave out Anzac Day Schools Awards in the ACT and WA, noting that these schools had reflected ‘on the contribution of the men and women who left our shores bound for the First World War, and all those who have followed in their footsteps in the hundred years since’. He added that, ‘An understanding of service and sacrifice will live on in future generations of Australians thanks to the commitment of these primary and secondary schools’.

Earlier in July, the Minister spoke at the opening of a new museum in Fromelles, France, to which Australia had contributed more than $1 million. He also promoted the new $10 million Australian remembrance trail, which will include Fromelles, along with the virtual version, which ‘provides an outstanding opportunity, from the comfort of home, to immerse yourself in the rich historical information and resources [the remembrance trail] contains’.

The Minister also spoke to Sydney Legacy. His remarks show some recognition of criticisms of commemoration initiatives, including that a crop of new Great War monuments and some passing parades should not be the main legacy of the Anzac centenary. There is also a recognition that we need to understand why we fight.

On the other hand, the Minister continued to insist (as he has done before) that the burden of remembrance has to pass to the next generation. Has anyone asked this generation whether they want this burden?

[I]f the only thing we have done is to build memorials, re-build memorials, have community events, then I think we have failed [the Minister said]. And what I want to see at the end of 2018 is whether we have the next generation of young Australians doing what you and I are doing at the moment. They will be carrying the torch …

And I want them to come out of this period understanding … the when we fought, the where we fought and as important, or even perhaps more important, the why we fought. And when they hop on a school bus, or they walk home, or they go shopping, or they go out at night with relative freedom – that they realise in many instances that freedom has been paid for in blood. And they must understand that.

Then, the Minister’s media release on Korean Veterans Day included this single line, right at the end: ‘Senator Ronaldson said 27 July was also an opportunity to reflect on the great loss to civilian life during the Korean War’. The reference to the deaths of non-Australian civilians is welcome and should be replicated in commemorative remarks throughout the Anzac centenary. Australians have not been good at taking this broader view.

In other news – or lack of it – the Minister has made no further announcements about Anzac Centenary Local Grants which he has approved. The list of approved grants attached to the Minister’s media release of 19 June still does not quite match the list on the Anzac centenary website. Our earlier material on this.

On the other hand, money is flowing from the Anzac Centenary Public Fund to various projects. The Minister announced this week that $4 million would be put towards a flame in Hobart, a horse ride in the Northern Territory and a footpath (designated ‘the Memorial Garden Walk’) in Adelaide. Further ‘priority’ projects include $22.5 reimbursement to the Victorian Government for work on the Shrine in Melbourne, $19.6 million for the Hyde Park Memorial in Sydney, $5.9 million for Anzac Square in Brisbane and more money for the footpath in Adelaide.

The public can now make contributions to the fund, to add to the corporate donations already received. The Minister has occasionally (see below ‘Update 7 July’) felt the need to justify government expenditure on the centenary by comparing it with government expenditure on veterans. He will not need to do so with the public fund; the amount the fund raises will be an indication of what the public thinks about the centenary.

Anzac alternative coalitions

As the Anzackery roller coaster rumbles on (threatening to drown out dignified forms of commemoration) there are some ‘Anzac alternative’ groups starting to make their presence felt:

  • Pax Christi Australia, part of the international Catholic peace movement, has set up an Anzac Centenary Peace Coalition ‘to “retell the Australian narrative” by presenting a view of history which is an alternate view to the one being officially promoted’;
  • IPAN (the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network) believes in exploring the causes of war and limiting the powers of the Australian Government to go to war without consultation;
  • The Coalition of Christian Peacemakers is promoting a ‘love your enemies’ philosophy and linked to the Columban Centre for Peace, Ecology and Justice, which provides peace resources for schools (being updated for launch on International Day of Peace 21 September);
  • The Gallipoli Centenary Peace Campaign focuses on the immense costs of militarism and the need to reduce the chance of catastrophic war in the future;
  • The Medical Association for the Prevention of War is doing good work in association with the History Teachers’ Association of Victoria in educating students about the medical effects of war; and
  • A Chorus of Women is developing a choral work to mark the centenary of the International Congress of Women, which took place in The Hague in 1915. This anniversary complements that of Anzac.

Honest History welcomes advice about other such initiatives. We have a joint action policy. We reiterate that history is contestable and so is the use that is made of it today. Well-funded roller coasters peddling simplistic and jingoistic stories should not expect to have the ground to themselves, even if some of the contestants risk being accused of lacking situational awareness.

Britain, New Zealand, Queensland and Victoria

David Hayes rounds up what is happening in Britain, particularly in Great War-oriented broadcasting and publishing, while John Jewell recalls the war-urger role of Lord Northcliffe and the general run of war propagandists. Meanwhile, in Aotearoa New Zealand, Prime Minister Key has spoken in Parliament to mark the centenary while, outside the Beehive precinct, there are peace movement initiatives and a new blog called 100 Years of Trenches.

In New Zealand also, the National Army Museum is working with film director Sir Peter Jackson to build a replica World War I battlefield, ‘with trenches, bogged down tanks, crashed planes and all the detritus of a very gruesome war’, the first of its kind anywhere (although there are reasonable imitations being created in Gaza 2014). According to a clearly chuffed Sir Peter, ‘it’s going to be fun! We’ll make it good!’

North of the Tweed, on this side of the Ditch, the Queensland Government has put out a 61 page document of grants that have been approved to mark the Anzac centenary. Some of the projects seem very similar to those funded by the Commonwealth under its local grants program, so perhaps there has been some shopping around by supplicants.

Finally, the Victorian Anzac centenary people have published a handy pdf setting out, with illustrations, the correct way to display the Victorian Anzac centenary logo. It puts us in mind of the story about why the stars on the American flag are five-pointed, which was because five points could be done by a skilled seamstress with one blow of the scissors. Perhaps they put a memo out about that also.

PS: Let us know about Anzac centenary initiatives that come to your attention, particularly ones which have you scratching your heads and wondering.

Update 7 July 2014: Commonwealth initiatives; ABC ten questions in ten hours

Commonwealth initiatives

Minister Ronaldson has announced the following:

Notable in the above is that the Minister felt it important to state (not for the first time) that over the next four years the Department of Veterans’ Affairs will spend more than four times the amount on mental health than it will on the Anzac centenary. (The centenary amount quoted here does not include either the $100 million plus in the public fund or expenditure by the States.)

Secondly, the returning Mr Carlyon has a particular take on one commemorative perennial, John Simpson Kirkpatrick. ‘Simpson, in death’, according to Mr Carlyon, ‘acquired a fame he never had in life. His was an affecting story and the public warmed to it. Simpson became a folk hero and this is never going to change and that is perhaps no bad thing.’

ABC Radio National ‘World War One centenary’: ten questions in ten hours – but no transcript

If you missed this program on the weekend of 28 and 29 June and wish to catch up with it, the full set of audios are online. Also MP3 but, disappointingly, no transcripts. The ten issues examined are beginnings, alleged donkey generals, secondary theatres of war, dissent at home, doctors and nurses, writers, the German angle, religion, the role of colonised nations, and the end of the war and its implications. The contributors include Joan Beaumont, Robert Bollard, Harvey Broadbent, Richard Evans, Paul Ham, Margaret MacMillan, Kerry Neale, Bobbie Oliver, Robin Prior, Christine Spittel, Peter Stanley, Hew Strachan, Mesut Uyar, Jay Winter, and many others