Anzac Analysed

Listed below are recent studies, debates and commentaries that critically examine the relevance and influence of the Anzac legend.

Military/Former Military

James Brown, Anzac’s Long Shadow: The Cost of Our National Obsession, Black Inc. Feb 2014

ABC RN Breakfast, ‘Anzac’s Long Shadow’, 17 Feb 2014. Interview with The Lowy Institute’s James Brown about his new book Anzac’s Long Shadow which criticises the amount of time, money and emotion spent on commemorating the Anzac legend.

ABC’s 7.30 Report on 13Feb 2014

Excerpts from the program:

“More than 12 months out from the ANZAC centenary, Australia is gearing up for an enormous celebration to mark the hundredth anniversary of the Gallipoli landing. 8,000 Australians will flock to ANZAC Cove for the event and over $325 million is to be outlaid on First World War commemorations, more than double the amount Britain plans to spend.

“The ANZAC legend has generated an enormous industry and now one Army veteran is asking whether our ANZAC obsession has gone too far. Former officer James Brown commanded troops in Iraq and was attached to the Special Forces in Afghanistan. He says ANZAC Day has become a lavish festival of the dead and argues the money would be better spent supporting returning soldiers who are struggling to deal with the physical and psychological legacy of war. And some other veterans agree with him.”

Quote from the program’s interview with James Brown: “The injunction at most war memorials is, “Let silent contemplation be your offering”. But instead we’re about to embark on a four-year festival for the dead which in some cases looks like a military Halloween.”

Peter Stanley, ‘Anzac’s Long Shadow highlights a national obsession’, Honest History, Mar 2014.  Review of James Brown’s Anzac’s Long Shadow: The Cost of Our National Obsession, Feb 2014.


References relating to the promotion of the Anzac legend and the ways it has been used to militarise and distort Australian history:

Marilyn Lake & Henry Reynolds, What’s Wrong with Anzac?, UNSW Press, 2010

In this work, Marilyn Lake argues that the “mythologising of Anzac as our national creation story and the popular rewriting of history … (has) effectively marginalised other formative experiences, especially cultural, social and political achievements in the making of the nation.” p.10.

An excellent website on the Anzac legend and the recounting of Australians at war is Honest History.

The establishment of this website was based upon the fear that during “the period 2014-19 Australians will be exposed to bellicose claptrap – to history that is essentially dishonest: unjustified, exaggerated, distorted; unbalanced even if it is not inaccurate”.  Read Peter Stanley’s address here.

Public Debates

Links to a number of popular public debates:

The Wheeler Centre / St James Ethics Centre debate on ‘Anzac Day is More Puff than Substance’, Melbourne Town Hall, 30 Apr 2013.  View the video of the debate here.

The Festival of Dangerous Ideas debate between Marilyn Lake and Peter FitzSimons, Sydney Opera House, ‘Anzac Day: Best We Forget’, Sep 2012.  View the video of the debate here.

David Stephens (Secretary of Honest History) has responded to criticism made by Andrew Nikolic MP (former Brigadier and Liberal member for Bass, Tasmania) of Prof Stanley’s remarks on the Anzac tradition and the WW1 centenary. Read David Stephens’ response here.


Belinda Lowe, ‘What’s Wrong With Anzac?‘ St James Ethics Centre, 1 Dec 2012


“Criticising ANZAC is a serious thing. It isn’t just a criticism of the day and the commemoration. It’s a criticism about the exclusivity of the legend and what has been accepted to be Australia’s identity and birth as a nation.

It’s a criticism of the folly of war and Australia’s role as a pawn in international conflict, a criticism of Australian defence policy and a criticism of our relationship with the US. Dissent from the mandated narrative is serious because it threatens power structures which stretch between the smallest of communities to the grandest of political theatres where geopolitical relations play out. These structures work to reinforce war and not peace, promote a white Australian identity rather than a multicultural one and fortify our inability to act in our own best interests in foreign policy decisions. This is what is wrong with ANZAC.”

Tony Harris, ‘As the Gallipoli centenary approaches: is the Anzac Legend bubble in danger of bursting?’, Watermelon Blog, 9 May 2013