Honest History: Honest History’s Alternative Guide to the Australian War Memorial

Update 13 June 2017: Look for the second edition of the Alternative Guide here. It contains pretty much everything that was in the first edition plus new material on World War II and later conflicts. The first edition has been downloaded more than 2000 times since it was launched.


Honest History

Honest History’s Alternative Guide to the Australian War Memorial‘, Honest History, 26 April 2016 updated

Update 1 November 2016: the Alternative Guide has been downloaded 1672 times since Anzac Day although the War Memorial Council has said it does not want to hear a presentation from Honest History on the Guide. You, too, can download it here.

NB: The exhibition, Reality in Flames, discussed in the Alternative Guide, has now concluded. We will look at the replacement exhibition in a future edition of the Alternative Guide.


Honest History often says the Australian War Memorial is the best in the world at what it does. Then we go on to say it could do so much more and do what it does differently. This Alternative Guide hints at what we mean by statements like that.

The Guide is intended for students from middle to senior Secondary level, for teachers and for members of the general public. Honest History encourages users to print it off. While the work is copyright, permission is given by Honest History for it to be copied royalty free within Australia for educational and information purposes (see page 36).

The Guide recognises the Memorial’s aims – and comments occasionally on how well these aims have been met – but it is primarily intended to encourage critical thinking and questioning. Honest History vigorously advocates the ‘contestability’ of history. Contestability is a key concept in the Australian Curriculum: History for Years 7-10 and is at the core of the historiography issues tackled in senior years.

Asking questions is at the heart of historical research. The Guide asks a lot of questions and does not always provide answers. That is for readers to do; sometimes there are no easy answers.

The Introduction to the Guide discusses how to ‘read’ the Memorial, along with the key concepts of complexity, context, and honesty and evidence. It concludes by asking why it is important to seek alternative readings of the Memorial.

The seven sections of the Guide then take visitors through the Memorial, asking questions and raising issues. The Guide concludes with some difficult questions about the use of language, about whether people can die in vain in wars, and whether sometimes it is better to forget. There is a short piece about the Guide on John Menadue’s blog, Pearls and Irritations.

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