This package was broadcast on Radio Port Phillip in April, 2012. It was also submitted for assessment at Monash University.
Script: Anzac Centenary
PRESENTER: Do you celebrate Anzac Day? Do you think it’s an important event in Australia’s history? Do you even know what it’s all about? These are the sorts of questions the government thinks we need to address coming up to the Anzac Day centenary commemorations in 2015. The government released a report in 2010 which has made a number of recommendations about ways to mark one hundred years since the events which we remember every year on April 25th. The debate resurfaced a few weeks ago, given that we’re one Anzac Day closer to the centenary but not much closer to reaching a consensus.
Our reporter Toni Brient spoke to some of the people in the centre of the debate.
(SOUND: THE LAST POST)
TONI BRIENT: Anzac Day is marked every year on April 25th, in memory of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey on that day, during World War 1.
Most people in Australia know that Anzac Day has something to do with military service, and even that it has to do with World War One and Gallipoli.
But research has shown there are a growing number of people who don’t know the specifics of Anzac history, and why it’s so important.
(SOUND: MILITARY PLANES AND GUNFIRE)
GARETH KNAPMAN: It’s the first landing at Gallipoli, so it’s the first major action Australia had seen. Nobody in Australia was majorly affected by World War One until the 25th of April, 1915. That was when our first soldiers engaged in hostilities.
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TONI BRIENT: That’s Dr Gareth Knapman, a research fellow at Monash University and project manager of an international team charting the history of Anzac Day.
Dr Knapman thinks we should be using centenary commemorations to educate the nation not only about the history of the Anzacs, but also World War One itself.
GRAETH KNAPMAN: It’s going to naturally draw in other aspects of the 100 years of Australian military engagement, but we should be making the main focus on World War One. I think if at the end of the centenary if most of the Australian people would know why World War One occurred and the ridiculousness of the war in many ways, I think that would be very important.
TONI BRIENT: He thinks that public perception of World War One needs an overhaul.
GARETH KNAPMAN: Even during the First World War, people were not quite sure really what they were fighting over. Most people, if you asked them, they would say Prussian militarism, not quite sure really what that was. I think that’s an important message we should be taking back from the commemorations of World War One: the actual why we went to war, how ridiculous it was going to war at the time, and the loss of the lives because of that.
TONI BRIENT: Dr Knapman thinks that the Anzac legacy has had such an impact on Australian identity because of its chronological placing in our history.
GARETH KNAPMAN: Australia was a very young entity as a federated nation. That was the first collective action as a country on a military level. So World War One was seen as, at the time, as where Australians were engaged in an epiphany, a moment of national importance, and this is very much connected to an earlier concept of the importance of conflict in building nations.
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TONI BRIENT: The President of Victoria’s branch of the Retired Serviceman’s League, David McLachlan, shares this view.
Mr McLachlan thinks the values displayed by the Anzacs forged what we now acknowledge to be the Australian character.
(SOUND: THE BAND PLAYED WALTZING MATILDA BY THE POGUES)
DAVID MCLACHLAN: The mate ship, the heroism, the will and determination of those people forged a place in history as far as our nation is concerned, and it was a time when perhaps from the time of federation it was the first occasion on which all of those characteristics came together to define the Australian character.
TONI BRIENT: But one hundred years on, Australia has been through many more conflicts and hardships.
Anzac Day has become inclusive of other military moments, like World War Two and the Korean War.
Mr McLachlan thinks that the centenary commemorations shouldn’t be limited to acknowledging World War One events.
DAVID MCLACHLAN: There is a very good program in place at the moment to look towards commemorating what happened in the First World War, but there are also some very significant anniversaries of other battles that happened during the Second World War that will fall within that time, and there is a board established by the government now, the Anzac Planning Board, that will look at all of those.
TONI BRIENT: Dr Knapman says that, ultimately, including some more recent military events in the commemorations will be necessary to make it easier for the public to relate to Anzac history.
GARETH KNAPMAN: You have to be able to connect it to the public in some way, so therefore it’s logical that you’re going to be much more broader.
PRESENTER: Dr Gareth Knapman ending that report from Toni Brient, with backing music there from The Pogues.