Daley, Paul: We demean our history when we turn the Australian War Memorial into Disneyland

Paul Daley

We demean our history when we turn the Australian War Memorial into Disneyland‘, Guardian Australia, 5 September 2019

Uses letter from former Memorial Director Brendon Kelson to Minister Chester to make some trenchant points about the proposed extensions to the Memorial. Concluding paragraphs:

But the memorial under Nelson has interpreted its own Act to suit its over-the-top Anzac preoccupations. It has refused, for example, to acknowledge the fierce wars for sovereignty between Aboriginal people and red coats, militias and settlers across the pastoral frontier – battles that underlie the dark heart of Australian nationhood and upon which the white federation was built. Its reason? Because it’s not, apparently, in the Act and those conflicts don’t (this is highly contestable) fit the memorial’s own definition of war.

It’s stunning intellectual dishonesty – especially when the memorial now bangs on endlessly about the “Black Diggers” who served the imperial forces in uniform. That is a fig leaf for its continued refusal to honour the Indigenous fighters who resisted British invasion and died in greater number than the Australian 60,000-plus dead of the first world war.

The last word should belong to another revered public servant, Charles Bean, official historian of Australia in the first world war and founding father of the Australian War Memorial, who, as Kelson pointed out to the prime minister, wrote: “The national memorial building should not be colossal in scale but rather a gem of its kind.”

That’s the difference between a thoughtfully curated, inspiring museum that inspires quiet reflection and … well, Disneyland.

Comments are heavily in favour of Daley’s arguments. The piece relates to the Heritage Guardians campaign against the extensions to the War Memorial. Kelson’s letter also appeared on Pearls and Irritations.


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