Green, Jonathan & Marilyn Lake: Newsmaker

Green, Jonathan & Marilyn Lake

Newsmaker: Marilyn Lake on Anzac and Aussie identity‘, ABC Sunday Extra, 1 April 2012 (audio and transcript)

Marilyn Lake talks to Jonathan Green. Marilyn Lake makes clear that she has no objection to commemoration of war service.

Of course their service should be commemorated. But we need to make a distinction between that commemoration of their war service and Australian history. And as a historian, I want to get across the message that our history’s rather more complicated than that and also much richer than that, and that in fact we had a very strong sense of nationhood laid down before World War I even occurred.

She outlines the commemorative effort by government since 1996 which is reinforcing an existing lack of awareness of other parts of our history, reatailing an anecdote of a young man at Gallipoli recently who claimed there was no Australian history before 1915. She notes the disillusionment with war after World War I.

And then we had more wars. We then have been really at war in some sense much of the time since. I mean, World War II obviously, followed by the Korean War and then the Vietnam War and Iraq and Afghanistan. I think one of the things that’s going on now is that there’s a sort of naturalising that we’re always at war, Australians are always at war somewhere now it seems.

And one of the purposes of the Anzac story has been to present one long narrative of Australians always being at war, so that the meaning of the people in Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s made sense of in terms of the Anzac spirit, that this is the sort of timeless ahistorical theme in our history, that they’re all there participating in the Anzac spirit.

Finally, she suggests that Australia may feel the lack of a revolutionary war and that the efforts to uncover and reinter the dead of Fromelles cause surprise among the French of the district.

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