In remembering Anzac Day, what do we forget?


Danielle Drozdzewski, UNSW Australia and Emma Waterton, Western Sydney University

In the weeks before Anzac Day, a flurry of news stories emerge mobilising Australians to remember the Anzacs. We see in them familiar references to “The Diggers”, with their virtues of mateship, sacrifice and courage, and the “birth” of the nation at Gallipoli. As Kevin Rudd said in 2010,

All nations are shaped by their histories, their memories and their stories.

When we retell a story, we actively choose which parts to retell. Our present day positions, our politics, our families and our environments all have considerable bearing on these choices.

Such choices of representation also apply to nation-building narratives, which are then used for the political purposes of the day – such as John Howard’s use of the “Anzac myth” to support military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

We call this process of choice the “politics of memory”. Generally, it supports a resoundingly masculine dominant Australian folklore – encompassing bush mythology, a pioneering spirit, sportsmanship, larrikinism, and mateship. It’s populated by characters such as Ned Kelly, the “jolly swagman” of Waltzing Matilda or Crocodile Dundee.

When “we” as a nation remember Anzac, we simultaneously forget significant parts of the story not commonly represented. Influencing this (selective) forgetting is an implicit whiteness.

As anthropologist Ghassan Hage argued in his book White Nation, despite the emphasis placed on multiculturalism in Australia,

the visible and public side of power remains essentially Anglo-White.

Our recent ethnographic and archival research shows that little investment has gone into thinking through what might happen to the Anzac identity in a more culturally diverse Australia.

Our critical analysis of Anzac-related literature, news media and popular symbols revealed that cultural diversity and multiculturalism receive only tangential attention.

This is not merely chance. Reports commissioned for the Department of Veteran Affairs preceding the centenary of Anzac identify “multiculturalism” as a risk and issue to consider in planning for the centenary, and as a “potential area of divisiveness”.

Disparaging non-conformance

Significant events, like Anzac Day, are opportunities to reiterate an approved narrative of war-centred nationalism – and vigorously disparage any form of critique that might arise.

Examples of non-conformance to collective Anzac narratives are rare, but they do occur. A particularly visible debate arose out of the film The Water Diviner (2014), directed by and starring Russell Crowe. While focusing on Gallipoli, the film offers an account that foregrounds a Turkish perspective on the campaign.

The film triggered the ABC’s Radio National History Podcast, released in 2015, to ask the question: “Is The Water Diviner … redefining our ANZAC legend?”

Another prominent example is former SBS reporter Scott McIntyre, who was stood down for tweeting controversial views about Anzac Day:


Twitter

McIntyre’s dismissal shows that, in the midst of the well-supported and popular Anzac narrative, contested and not-so-salubrious parts of the story aren’t tolerated and get little public airtime. Indeed those who deviate from the narrative line are vilified.

The Australian government ensures that the nation remembers Anzac each year by marking the event with a collective commemoration. As a settler society, collective remembrance is an important government function. But how, what, where and why we remember should be relevant to our geographically disparate and culturally diverse populace.

Slowly creeping change

For many years the hard lines drawn around Anzac memory excluded recognition of Indigenous involvement in WWI, even in official commemorations.

Returned Indigenous soldiers encountered considerable discrimination. They were excluded from early attempts to commemorate military service and the war dead; forgotten in the war memorials; denied the right to participate in Anzac Day marches, and refused access to veterans’ benefits and entry into RSLs.

Since the 1990s, a number of attempts to commemorate Indigenous war service have occurred, contributing to what historian Peter Cochrane calls a “new inclusiveness”.

These early efforts tended to materialise on the margins: a plaque to Indigenous war service erected on public land behind the Australian War Memorial by a private citizen in 1993; a commemoration in Burleigh Head National Park inscribed in 1991; and an Australian War Memorial travelling exhibition, Too Dark for the Light Horse, that toured Australia in 1999 and 2000/1.

More recent demands have more successfully permeated the politics of Anzac memory, resulting in Indigenous memorials in shared spaces. These include the Torrens Parade Ground memorial in Adelaide, completed in 2013 and commonly referred to as Australia’s first memorial to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and servicewomen.

A memorial honouring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service men and women at Torrens Parade Ground in Adelaide.
Margaret Scheikowski

Another is the sculpture Yininmadyemi – Thou didst let fall, created by Indigenous artist Tony Albert for the City of Sydney and installed in Hyde Park in 2015.

Shifting political agendas have also facilitated greater inclusion of Turkey into dominant Anzac memories.

Historical media research by Catherine Simpson details this movement from “foe” to “noble Turk”, culminating in a nationally celebrated, government-constructed, friendship.

Similar questions can be raised about the inclusion of other national groups. We’ve seen a rising interest in researching, for example, German, Irish, Russian or Chinese “Anzacs” who were fighting on the Gallipoli peninsula. Soldiers of many nationalities have been present with Australian troops in numerous conflicts, including Gallipoli, Kokoda and Vietnam.

What is Anzac’s future in multicultural Australia?

Research has shown that Australians born here are more likely to prioritise Anzac as a key marker of national identity than other Australians.

This finding is not surprising. Indeed, much cultural and political work is invested in positioning Anzac as tantamount to Australian identity.

While the Anzac story was produced in colonial White Australia, Australia today is vastly different in demographic terms and is made up of people whose histories increasingly lie elsewhere. Australia has invested significantly in multicultural policy and committed to creating an inclusive nation.

What happens when Australians do not, or cannot, identify with the Anzac narrative genealogically or nationally? What happens if we simply do not want to participate?

Should Australians not born here be expected to “inherit” the Anzac narrative unequivocally, and exactly how would that happen? And does not identifying with Anzac really equate to being un-Australian?

Like others who have also questioned Anzac’s centrality, we think that there is much to celebrate in Australia’s diversity.

Despite discordance, we live in a nation that has a mandated political commitment to diversity.

In the current global climate of fear of difference, isn’t that commitment – to being a country of people from diverse countries – worth commemorating?

The Conversation

Danielle Drozdzewski, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, UNSW Australia and Emma Waterton, Associate Professor in the Geographies of Heritage, Western Sydney University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

For whom the Pell tolls: what did we learn from George Pell’s royal commission appearance?


Timothy W. Jones, La Trobe University

Cardinal George Pell returned this week to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in relation to the Ballarat and Melbourne case studies.

Giving evidence over the course of four days, via video link from Rome, Pell modified slightly his previous public positions. But, fundamentally, he insisted that he knew little, and fulfilled his duties in relation to what he did know.

On several occasions, counsel assisting the royal commission suggested that Pell’s claims to be ignorant of child sex offending in various contexts was implausible. If everyone around Pell knew, how could he not have known?

The forms of denial

One of the most important lessons we have learnt from Pell’s appearance is the church was – and still is – in a state of denial. It is in denial about the harms of sexual abuse, and about the adequacy of its responses to allegations of abuse.

Being in denial is a curious thing. In denying something, you implicitly admit that there is something to deny.

The late sociologist Stanley Cohen examined this phenomenon in his last book. Cohen argued that we have myriad techniques of keeping disturbing knowledge at bay: there are many ways of not knowing.

The simplest is literal denial. We saw plenty of this from Pell. He repeatedly said that he never knew of allegations of abuse; that he never heard rumours of Gerald Ridsdale’s offending when they shared a presbytery in Ballarat.

Even less plausibly, Pell claimed that advisors and colleagues deliberately kept information from him. As journalist David Marr wrote, Pell was apparently:

… hoodwinked decades ago by an archbishop, a bishop, his colleagues and even the Catholic Education Office.

A more nuanced way of avoiding knowledge is interpretive denial. This involves keeping knowledge at a distance by accepting a fact but giving it a different interpretation.

So, when questioned about his time as a consultor in Ballarat, Pell insisted that paedophilia was never mentioned in discussions of why priests were being moved unexpectedly between parishes. Many of his fellow consultors knew that child sex offences had been committed, and “homosexuality” may have been mentioned as the reason for the priest’s removal.

But Pell, incuriously, chose not to see the possibility that the homosexual conduct may have been intergenerational. He asked no questions, and admitted:

It was a sad story and of not much interest to me.

The most disturbing form of denial on display in Pell’s four days of testimony, however, is implicatory denial: a refusal to see the legal and moral implications that follow from information.

Pell went to great lengths to explain that, in almost all cases, he did everything that was appropriate to his role at the time. He was repeatedly challenged by counsel assisting and the commissioner, Peter McClellan, that a priest might have a moral responsibility that exceeds the literal duties assigned to their role. But Pell rejected this proposition:

He has a moral responsibility to do … what is appropriate to his position.

Pell claimed that in his positions as priest, consultor and auxilliary bishop, he did all that was appropriate to his position. He simply reported any allegations that he thought were plausible to his superiors. That they neglected their duties was not his responsibility.

What chance of change?

Pell may be right that that the lion’s share of blame for the gross miscarriages of justice being examined by the royal commission should be laid at the feet of his dead and dying former superiors. But what is also emerging is graphic evidence of the dysfunctionality of Catholic governance on this issue.

As my research has shown, Roman Catholic canon law – ironically – has the oldest and most clearly articulated legal provisions for the prosecution of sexual offences against children. Yet the enactment of these provisions is entirely in the diocesan bishop’s hands.

A diocesan bishop has a fundamental conflict of interest in the discipline of clergy in their diocese. He is simultaneously responsible for the pastoral care of the priest and for their punishment. This contravenes a basic principle of natural law – that no-one should be a judge in their own case.

If church authorities had believed the children’s allegations, investigated them and kept records of those investigations, it is possible that offending priests could have been removed and disciplined. Instead, allegations were regarded as implausible, offending priests’ denials were believed, and records were destroyed.

And where allegations were too stark to be denied, the gravity of the offending was denied, and priests were sent for “counselling” and relocated.

It is evident that Archbishop Frank Little and Bishop Ronald Mulkearns neglected their responsibilities and even contravened canon law in their dealings with sexually offending clergy. But Pell’s claims to have fulfilled his moral responsibility in the face of this dysfunction ring hollow.

Pell chose to keep knowledge of his fellow priests’ offending at bay and allowed his superiors’ neglect and malpractice to continue. After the exposure of this legal dysfunction and moral cowardice, we can expect the royal commission’s recommendations will include changes to Roman Catholic governance and canon law.

The Conversation

Timothy W. Jones, Senior Lecturer in History, La Trobe University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Australia: Malcolm Turnbull on 7.30


It’s about time – indeed past time – that politicians were challenged and taken to task over their refusal to answer questions. My solution – don’t let them back on if they don’t answer the questions asked.