Organised by GCPC, this ‘Hour of Reflection’ attracted over 65 people. Unlike official Anzac Day commemorations, it offered participants an opportunity to reflect on all victims of war including:
- Those who died in battle;
- Those who were maimed physically and/or psychologically;
- Those who suffered on the home front;
- Those who opposed conscription and war.
It also offered participants an opportunity to reflect on the causes of war and the possibility of building a culture of peace and reconciliation.
Remembrance without the add-ons
While it is perfectly legitimate to remember those that were killed or brutalised during war, there is absolutely no reason why we should respect the add-ons that seem inseparable from Anzac Centenary commemorations.
These add-ons refer to the Anzac legend and the historical distortions that this myth entails.
What does the insidious Anzac legend assert? It asserts that:
- The nation was born as Gallipoli;
- It was our first blood sacrifice;
- Our national identity was established in war time;
- We fought at Gallipoli for freedom and democracy;
- Our national values are military values.
To quote the historian, Prof Marilyn Lake, this is the “puff, the promotion, the propaganda … that falsifies history and does no honour to those that died”.
Worse, by numbing our critical intelligence, it makes people more amenable to engaging in foreign wars in the service of “great and powerful friends”. In the past this was Great Britain; today it is the USA.
The event’s program
The commemoration’s program comprised the following:
- An introduction to the event by GCPC’s President, John Butcher;
- A ‘Welcome to Country’ and a reflection on the impact of the Frontier Wars by Jennifer Newman, a local Wiradjuri woman;
- A meditation by Jo Blackman, a yoga teacher and GCPC member;
- Three readings by author and historian Nadia Wheatley from her book Australians All: A History of Growing Up from the Ice Age to the Apology;
- A reading of David Krieger’s anti-war poem ‘A Message to Youth’ by Nick Deane from the Marrickville Peace Group;
- A period of silent reflection for those killed or traumatised by war;
- A short address by Jon Atkins, GCPC’s Secretary, on genuine remembrance followed by the planting of a native tree symbolising peace and reconciliation.
Marrickville Council was also thanked for the support it gave to GCPC in its campaign to have the park officially declared Richardson’s Lookout – Marrickville Peace Park.
The background paper ‘Reflections on Anzac Day 2016’ can be read here.
An article by the historian Douglas Newton entitled ‘The hard questions we should face on Anzac Day 2016’ can be accessed here.