Closing the Frontier Wars Credibility Gap at the War Memorial: Honest History’s David Stephens talks to 3CR’s Jan Bartlett

David Stephens sat down with 3CR Community Radio’s Jan Bartlett and their 30 minute chat was broadcast on 3CR’s Tuesday Hometime on 2 May. Start from about mark 32.40. Runs for about ten minutes. (Earlier part of the broadcast from about mark 13.40 is on the history of the Honest History website.)


Commentary on statements by War Memorial Chair Kim Beazley.

Some points to agree with, though there is a real issue on what is meant by the word ‘substantial’, which Mr Beazley has used to characterise what can be expected in coverage of the Frontier Wars in the future Memorial.

Frontier Wars being covered in the War Memorial does not preclude them being covered in other places, too.

Credibility gap between Beazley’s remarks about need for ‘substantial’ coverage of Frontier Wars and remarks of War Memorial management (at Senate Estimates and to Honest History when we inquired – and most recently in an answer to an Estimates Question on Notice) and a faction on the Memorial Council led by MAJ GEN Greg Melick, also national head of the RSL.

War Memorial plans involve bizarre lumping together of Frontier Wars with four tinpot colonial wars in a space barely bigger than the Memorial had before: ‘demeaning and ludicrous’.

Question whether Mr Beazley has grasped the difference between what he has been saying and what others associated with the Memorial have been saying and with current plans.

Note the composition of the Memorial Council, which includes Tony Abbott and heads of the three services.

Wonder whether Mr Beazley can deliver.

‘Defending Country’ is a common theme which should apply both to First Nations warriors defending their Country against settlers and native police and military detachments and, on the other hand, to people in uniform sent to defend Australia.

People at the time knew the Frontier Wars were a war and said so but we have glossed over that history since.

It is significant that we know almost to the last man and woman how many died in our overseas wars but we have no real idea of how many died in the Frontier Wars.

It is appalling that we do not have that grasp on our own history.

Bringing change to the Memorial will involve a big battle.

Encourage people to write to Mr Beazley and to Minister Keogh.

7 May 2023 updated

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