Stephens, David: Australia spending so much more on WWI centenary

Stephens, David

Why is Australia spending so much more on the Great War centenary than any other country?Pearls and Irritations, 20 June 2015

Honest History’s David Stephens writes for John Menadue’s blog, Pearls and Irritations. The article compares Australia’s spending on the centenary with that of a number of other countries. While comparisons are difficult and information is hard to come by, some conclusions can be drawn. (There is related material here on a particular current Australian commemorative project. There is more recent material collated here.)

The article matches each country’s expenditure with the number of deaths it suffered in the Great War. For European countries this means taking account of large numbers of civilian deaths, whereas Australia suffered no civilian deaths.

Australia’s expenditure appears much greater compared with any other country, both in absolute terms and per death. Depending on how we count the New Zealand spend, the Australian spend per death is between five and 19 times the average spend per death of the next five countries (New Zealand, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany).

(The New Zealand spend is particularly difficult to characterise for reasons described in the article.)

The article goes on to consider a number of possible reasons why Australian expenditure is so much larger: we are commemorating not just the centenary of Anzac but also a century of service by our defence forces; the dedicated promotional efforts of people like Minister Ronaldson, War Memorial Director Nelson and senior military officers; public demand, which in turn is stoked by fashion and the fear of being seen as disloyal; duplication of spending between the Commonwealth and states; the distance between Australia and the battlefields, so we compensate by excessive commemoration at home; the lack of civilian collateral casualties simplifies the commemorative task, allowing it to concentrate on heroic deaths of men in uniform; the idea that we were born as a nation at Gallipoli.

There are sources linked to the article but see also these below. Honest History also spoke to a number of embassies and high commissions in Canberra: Belgium, Canada Canada Portugal Belgium UK South Africa, Namibia NZ NZ US US Germany, France


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