This year’s Anzac Day Reflection was held in Richardson’s Lookout – Marrickville Peace Park, the third time this event has been held in the Peace Park since its launch on 8 November 2015.
Organised by Gallipoli Centenary Peace Campaign (GCPC), the event attracted over 50 people who came together to pay tribute to Australian soldiers killed during WW1 and other wars that Australia has engaged in. This includes all Indigenous Australians who served in these wars, including the 500-600 who fought in WW1 and who have only been officially recognised in recent times.
As the name suggests, however, Anzac Day Reflections aim to do more than recognise Australian casualties of foreign military engagements. The purpose of these gatherings is to honour these wartime casualties by reflecting on how the slaughter and maiming of a generation of the country’s youth actually came about over 100 years ago.
On such occasions, we need to ask a range of questions including how our country got involved in these wars, what purposes were actually being served, and what mistakes were made in prolonging hostilities.
Anzac Day commemorations tend to ignore such questions in favour of celebrating “sacrifice and heroism” along with fostering such fictions as the nation was born at Gallipoli and our national identity was established in wartime.
In other words, we need to learn from past military tragedies so that we can minimise the chance of them occurring in the future.1
This year’s program, facilitated by John Butcher from GCPC, involved a variety of contributions motivated by these sentiments. These included:
- An ‘Acknowledgement of Country’ by Jennifer Newman (a local Wiradjuri resident);
- Poetry readings by Andy Kissane (writer and poet);
- Speech on Anzac Day and the Frontier Wars by Jon Atkins (GCPC);
- A reading on the Appin Massacre of 1816 by Nick Deane (Marrickville Peace Group);
- Speech on the Commemoration of War and the Meaning of Peace by Colin Hesse (Greens Councillor for Marrickville Ward, Inner West Council).
An important feature of Anzac Day Reflections is the opportunity it offers participants to present their own stories and reflections on war and peace. This event was no exception, with many people stepping forward to share their thoughts and experiences.
The program also included an update on Inner West Council’s resolution to “consult with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Strategic Reference Group, the Metro Land Council and further representatives from the local community about the need, form and location of a Frontier War memorial.” This resolution was endorsed by Council on 13 February 2018. A report summarising the results of the consultation is to be brought back to Council later this year. Updates on the progress of this consultation and report will be posted on this website.2
During the course of the event, signatures were collected on a petition calling for the establishment of a Pemulwuy Cooks River Trail. Specifically the petition calls on “Inner West Council, in conjunction with Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Reference Group, to designate the walk between the Aboriginal Interpretation Sites along the Cooks River parks in Marrickville as the Pemulwuy Trail and produce an information leaflet to explain the sites and the Aboriginal connection to the Cooks River (River of Goolay’yari).”3
The Anzac Day Reflection ended with Jennifer Newman being invited to draw the winning raffle ticket for the latest Quarterly Essay by historian Mark McKenna entitled Moment of Truth: History and Australia’s Future.4 This Quarterly Essay was generously donated by Gleebooks.
1. Refer to the speech by historian Douglas Newton given at GCPC’s forum ‘Gallipoli and Anzac after 100 Years: Lessons and the Prospects for Peace Today’ on April 22, 2015.
2. Details of the event’s program and the resolution (page 2) can be found here.
3. The petition can be downloaded here. Signed petition forms need to be returned to GCPC by June 1, 2018. The return address can be found at the bottom of the petition.
4. Mark McKenna, Moment of Truth: History and Australia’s Future, Quarterly Essay 69, Black Inc., 2018. A key proposition of the essay is expressed in the following terms: “Australia stands at a crossroads – we either make the commonwealth stronger and more complete through an honest reckoning with the past, or we unmake the nation by clinging to triumphant narratives in which the violence inherent in the nation’s foundation is trivialised.”