National duty of care neglected on repatriation records

Professor Bruce Scates of Monash University points out that only five per cent of the cost of digitising the World War I repatriation files has been found as part of Australia’s Anzac commemoration budget. ‘One thing is without dispute about Australia’s Anzac centenary’, Scates writes. ‘This is an exercise big on spectacle and lacking in substance.’

Scates refers to the case of Leslie Mulhall, severely wounded at Passchendaele, disfigured and outcast.

Reading this file (and thousands of others like it) you begin to see the true cost of war – not just to that forgotten legion of crippled, blind and insane but to the families and communities who struggled to care for them.

The National Archives has received less than 5 per cent of the funds needed to digitise repatriation records. But bringing one of Australia’s richest archives to the attention of the world should be our centenary’s most urgent priority. We can do nothing now for the generation of 1914-1918, but the truth remains our greatest debt to them.

The work of Scates and others on 100 stories, based on the repatriation files is here. Information on how money is being spent in other areas is here, here and here. Ian McPhedran had a piece in the Daily Telegraph.

7 September 2015


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