Due to the coronavirus, no public gatherings to commemorate Anzac Day will be held around the country this year. This has also resulted in the cancellation of the alternative Anzac Day Reflection which was scheduled to take place at the Marrickville Peace Park in Sydney.
This circumstance, however, opens up an opportunity for the Australian community to move away from Anzac Day ceremonies that have become so commercialised and politicised in recent decades.
In particular, it offers the opportunity for people, young and old, to critically reflect upon the Anzac legend and the historical distortions that this myth entails.
It also provides the opportunity for hard questions to be raised about the Gallipoli campaign and other military conflicts that Australia has engaged in such as the wars in Vietnam and Iraq.
Remembrance ceremonies should not take the form of nationalist jamborees and they should not be exploited to vindicate engagement in contemporary foreign wars.
Regarding the attitudes of those who fought in WW1, it is worth recalling the views of Australian soldiers like Sergeant Archie Barwick who, in late 1918, wrote in his diary: ‘never no more for me, the only time I would fight again is in defence of my own country, I would never go out of “Aussie” again seeking stoush, I have had my fill of it.’
In our private remembrances this Anzac Day, there is the opportunity to acknowledge ‘inconvenient’ sentiments expressed by many of our WW1 troops. These include an aversion to glorifying war and the need for our military forces to be deployed in the defence of this country rather than being sent overseas to strengthen our alliance relationships with great powers.
Entering wars in the name of preserving alliances is a constant theme in Australia’s military history. With respect to WW1, the record shows that an inner group of the Australian cabinet was hell-bent on offering the country’s navy and a 20,000 strong expeditionary force to serve anywhere, for any objective, under British command, even before the British cabinet declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914.
Craven loyalty to alliance solidarity is being repeated today, this time in the name of the Australia-US alliance. Hosting US run facilities like Pine Gap, permitting US marines to be stationed in Darwin, engaging in military exercises like Talisman Sabre, while generally supporting the Trump administration in its confrontation with China, is once again putting Australia’s security at risk.
Returning to this year’s Anzac Day commemorations – given the current restrictions applying to public gatherings, we invite you to peruse a selection of local Anzac Day reflections and activities that have mainly been held at the Marrickville Peace Park in previous years.