Dingwall, Doug: Australian War Memorial drops “young and free” branding after national anthem update

Doug Dingwall

Australian War Memorial drops “young and free’ branding after national anthem update‘, Canberra Times, 6 January 2021 (pdf from our subscription)

PM’s announced change to the words of the National Anthem necessarily requires the War Memorial to take down its ‘for we are young and free’ branding. Honest History followed the early history of this brand – one of our researchers was tapped as part of the market research – and reported it here in 2016. The then Director of the Memorial had been keen on the ‘young and free’ words for a decade:

The Memorial in recent times has had a penchant for possibly plagiarised, certainly snappy slogans. Its current slogan – ‘Every nation has its story. This is our story’ (sometimes just ‘This is ours’) – looks remarkably like the slogan on mass-produced plaques which can be bought online to stick on your lounge wall – “Every family has a story. Welcome to ours”.

Then, the possible new slogan, “we are young and free”, pinched from the National Anthem and already featured in Dr Nelson’s speeches, emphasises how the Memorial would like us to closely identify its work with what it sees as Australia’s zeitgeist. That is a German word, probably used by Kaiser Wilhelm II. It means “the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time”. The message here seems to be: love your country, love your War Memorial. End of story.

“Australians all let us rejoice, for we are young and free. Our anthem is a national epitaph to those whose sacrifice in peace and war, gave us that freedom.” That was how Dr Nelson began [a speech when he was a federal Minister], way back in 2007. Maybe the anthem can be that sometimes, in some circumstances, on some days, but surely it is more than that?

David Stephens

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