From the Honest History vault: Anzackery for children, including the collected works of Memorial Director Anderson

Like Christmas, Easter and birthdays, Anzac Day has familiar tropes: Dawn Service and other numbers up (or down); children marching wearing great-great uncle’s medals; the oldest upright and coherent Digger our journalists could find; two-up; football matches with the Last Post.

Anzac Ted Front Cover High Res

This year there was also the crunching of new gravel out the front of the Australian War Memorial, perhaps temporarily drowning out some unseemly noises from the Auditor-General about the shitshow that the Memorial’s Big Build had become (see sources on Honest History home page under sub-heading ‘Audit Office (ANAO) performance audit on management of the War Memorial project’).

There’s also the Anzac oeuvre for the kiddies, some of it thanks to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the War Memorial. We haven’t kept up with their most recent output but here are some reviews of ‘the literature’ – Lest We Forget how cringe-making much of it is:

  • Professor Peter Stanley (2015) reviews Anzac Ted by Belinda Landsberry: ‘This is surely war propaganda in its plainest form.’
  • David Stephens (2014) compares WH Fitchett’s Deeds that Won the Empire: Historic Battle Scenes (1897) and Carlie Walker’s  Audacity: Stories of Heroic Australians in Wartime (2014): ‘Both Deeds and Audacity are propaganda. They gild the lily, they suppress evidence, they tell only part of the story in the interest of recruiting children to a patriotic cause.’6kokoda
  • David Stephens (2020) reviews three children’s books published by the Director of the War Memorial, Matt Anderson, before he took on that position. The books’ titles tell us a lot: A is for ANZAC: An A to Z of Australia and the First World War; K is for Kokoda: An A to Z of Australia and the Second World War; Don’t Forget Me, Cobber: Australia and the First World War. ‘These are books’, the review concludes, ‘mostly about what Australians have done in war, less about what war has done to Australia and Australians, and almost nothing about what war does to other people, non-Australians’.

26 April 2024


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