The commemoration of the 10th Bali bombing anniversary was demonstration enough that the occasion should be formally recognised. It should become a fixture of the national calendar.
Bali Day would never rival ANZAC Day, but rather become its parallel. It is needed to mark the pain and sacrifice and loss on a field other than that of military engagement.
Aunty Jannette (Phillips), a Ngunnawal woman who gave the welcome to country at Canberra observances today put it well: “Once in a while we have to hold our breath.” She was referring to the need to acknowledge shattering loss.
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The Prime Minister delivered a worthy speech at Anzac Cove yesterday.
You can read the full text of the speech here. It’s not long but it is powerful.
I’ve put an extract in below the fold.
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It seemed like a cool trick. Placing my thumb neatly into the scarred hole on the side of my dad’s waist. My thumb sitting flush to his body. To a five-year-old it seemed like the injury was fashioned that way for a reason.
In fact it was senseless. A war injury that barely told the truth of the “indefinable personality change” noted on my father’s war records, which I’ve only days ago uncovered.
As a teenager in the 1980s there was a succession of years when public debate rang around whether we should even bother having Anzac Day. The expression “glorifies war” was bandied about to an offensive level. For the first time I felt like a stranger in my own country. My opinion about the value and significance of Anzac Day was in the minority among my peers.
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They were there at Gallipoli and in the trenches at the Somme. They saw some of the most ferocious fighting of WWI and yet somehow the debate still rages: were the original Anzacs as tough as guts and as brittle as old nails or were they soft, tender… and chewy?
It’s a question that has had passionate biscuit lovers waging a ferocious battle for decades. It’s a fight that’s set to rival the Hundred Years’ War in length and bitterness. The righteous crisp and crunchy forces will brook no dissent. They know how they like it and will take no prisoners (or at least no other opinions than their own). They can be a dogmatic bunch.
The knock-about chewy bikkie lovers, on the other hand, are more like the Anzacs themselves. Open to new methods, up for fun when it’s on offer and willing to try new guerrilla tactics to force their (somewhat soft) hand.
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Lest we forget.
What’s on your mind?
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“I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could,” reads the bumper sticker of a passing Ford F250, nearly the size of an Australian tow-truck.
Everything is BIG in Texas – trucks, hats, steaks, beer and most of all pride. Texans are damn proud of the land their grandfathers fought to own, as if their very blood flowed beneath the soil and not the rich black oil the pump-jacks work non-stop to extract. The Texan flag is the only State flag legally flown at the same level as the Stars and Stripes.
Following our first ever Thanksgiving lunch, my wife and I settled down with our extended family to watch a football match between the University of Texas ‘Longhorns’ and Texas A&M University, The Aggies. It was a room divided, as if a new civil war was being played out over turkey and ham leftovers.
Remember when you were a kid and the bogeyman kept you awake at night?
No matter how many times mum said he didn’t exist, you’d still expect him to come out of the wardrobe and eat you up.
Australia has a bogeyman. His face changes every few decades: once he was Russian, then he was Asian.
The centenary of ANZAC commemorations deserve and demand bipartisanship. Any suggestion, however, that the Australian people need their Government to spend $500,000 of their money to tell them how to commemorate the centenary of ANZAC is, quite frankly, deeply offensive.
The thought that it could only be done by paying highly-priced consultants looking for the faults is even more concerning.
The Gillard Labor Government’s approach to the centenary of ANZAC can at best be described as chaotic, at worse it can be described as an ill-fated attempt to re-write history before it has even happened.
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If only Wikileaker Julian Assange was in the Government and could leak the actual footage of these mysterious focus groups that found Anzac Day was ‘divisive’ because of multiculturalism.
It’s hard to imagine who, specifically, is planning to be offended by the World War I centenary commemorations. Unless some dopey focus group leader who desperately needed something to put in the ‘possible issues’ column sketched some outrageous possibilities such as gory re-enactments of Australian soldiers killing Turks, or Vietnamese.
According to today’s Daily Telegraph, the Federal Government commissioned research and focus group testing that found multiculturalism means commemorating the centenary of Anzac Day is a “double-edged sword” and a “potential area of divisiveness”.
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ANZAC Day is a day for commemoration and celebration of Australian identity, so long as we remember the gays and the Muslims were never a part of this.
Anzac Day has become much more than a day of commemorating a military campaign; it has become a national focal point through which we locate what it means to be “Australian.” While the notion of “Australian values” raises disparate and often romantic ideas of mateship, courage and loyalty, it is sometimes insidiously mobilised to express prejudices.
Jim Wallace, Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby, made this point painfully clear when he lamented over Twitter “that as we remember servicemen and women we remember [the] Australia they fought for - wasn’t gay marriage & Islamic!”
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Ray Martin has suffered an uncharacteristic lack of judgment - and possibly also taste - in using our most important national day to reignite debate over the Australian flag.
In doing so he has damaged the republican cause, by exposing himself and the broader republican movement to accusations of opportunitism and grand-standing.
Don’t get me wrong - I don’t love our flag, for the simple reason that it’s got another country’s flag plastered all over it. As a modern and independent and multicultural nation it is a total anachronism that one-quarter of our national ensign is occupied by the Union Jack, regardless of the (generally positive) role of Britain in settling and colonising our nation.
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It worked for playwright Alan Seymour 50 years ago and it is working for historians Henry Reynolds and Marilyn Lake today. Having a dig at Anzac, that is.
Reynolds and Lake, fine historians both, are making ripples with their new book, the provocatively titled What’s Wrong with Anzac? The questionmark is a fig leaf, as the book sets out, in emphatic fashion, what the authors think is wrong with our most cherished piece of national mythology. Their subtitle is The Militarisation of Australian History.
In short, Reynolds and Lake believe recent emphasis on our military past, and especially Gallipoli and its commemoration on Anzac Day, has distorted and devalued Australia’s true history. They blame governments past and present, which probably makes them long odds to go back-to-back in the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for nonfiction (they got the nod last year for Drawing the Global Colour Line.)
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Growing up in Sydney with a father who served in the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces (BCOF), Anzac Day was a special day.
We would rise early, catch the bus into the city and wait for my father to march past with his mates.
It was important to him that we understood the significance of Anzac Day so that we could carry on the tradition of remembering those who gave us the freedom we enjoy today.
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It’s hard for anyone under the age of at least 50 to say they truly understood Ted Kenna, except for his family and perhaps anyone who’s almost died in combat.
And Ted was probably easier to understand than others famed or prominent among his World War II generation, a laconic, uncomplicated country guy who happened to have been given a medal called the Victoria Cross.
For valour. It’s the highest honour you can get.
But judging by the muted reaction to Ted’s death, at 90, a lot of people didn’t really get what he was about.
The story broke in the local Geelong news media on Thursday, which covers where he lived his final few years in a nursing home, in an understated manner befitting Ted, (”Nedda” to his mates).
By 4 pm, ABC radio in Melbourne hadn’t picked it up or, if maybe they did they didn’t think the news worthy to include in their bulletin.
In one way you can’t blame them, for not ‘getting it’ because 20 or 30 years ago many people of my baby boomer generation may not have only been indifferent, but possibly hostile to men of Ted Kenna’s background.
How could you expect much younger people, in their 20s, to rate the significance of a VC holder?
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