[First published in BWD magazine, autumn 2021, Braidwood NSW.]
The word Gallipoli evokes one of our most potent cultural stories, but in truth it is not one story but many. There are stories of sacrifice and national identity, but there are also stories of folly and destruction, and stories overlooked. We all, presumably, want to honour the fallen but there are those who, wittingly or otherwise, exploit the stories for other purposes. Can we have a conversation about these stories? Can we talk about which stories to keep, whether some might be corrected or discarded and others picked up? Continue reading →
Nothing that follows is to dishonour the bravery and sacrifice of the young Australians who suffered and died in World War I.
However if we are to avoid repeating such disasters we need a larger and clearer perspective than we have been getting from much of the commentary, official and unofficial, marking the centenary of the war.
The Australian nation was not forged at Gallipoli or any other foreign battlefield. There was already a vigorous nation by 1913.
[Sent this to several places, but no-one wants to publish it apparently. Might try an edited version closer to Anzac Day. For overseas readers, the disastrous, failed 1915 assault on Turkey in WWI is supposed to mark the time Australia’s colonies, federated in 1901, “became a nation”. Working on a book on Australian politics, hence rather quiet on this site. Perhaps I’ll put up an extract or two.]
My many misgivings around the Gallipoli Centenary were crystallised by the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s Canberra performance of Reflections on Gallipoli, now playing around the country. Though many annually grieve with a full heart the loss of so many young men, and do so simply “lest we forget”, the Gallipoli legend has also been twisted and misused.
Gallipoli was not the start of our nation. Simply revisiting the horror does not heal the wound. We seem to have learnt nothing about futile wars. We neglect constructive attempts, then and now, to avoid war.