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The untold stories of ANZAC

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6 December 2012

Anzac Cove in Gallipoli, Turkey. The landing site of the Australian and New Zealand troops in 1915. Image source: iStock

Multiculturalism has always been part of the Anzac story, according to a new documentary that sheds light on Australia’s forgotten narratives.

Five years in the making, the BBC World Service radio documentary ‘ANZAC’ features interviews with Monash University’s Professor Bruce Scates, from the National Centre for Australian Studies, and Professor Alistair Thomson, from the Monash Department of History, taking listeners on a journey from Australia to Gallipoli.

The documentary is co-presented by Sharon Mascall-Dare, a BBC journalist and Anzac Day researcher who recorded and produced ‘ANZAC’ as part of her PhD research for the University of South Australia, and author and historian Thomas Keneally.

Professor Scates and a group of Monash University students, all involved in the Monash One Hundred Stories Project, walked Ms Mascall-Dare through the battlefields of the Gallipoli peninsula in July 2012, recording interviews for ‘ANZAC’ on location.

“The Turkish Empire was culturally and ethically diverse, as were the empires of Britain and France,” Professor Scates said.

“Gallipoli was a place where armies from across the world collided. It can’t be understood in a single nation’s story. This was tragedy on a truly global scale and spelt trauma and loss for an entire generation.”

Interviews with two Monash University students, Alysha Genn and Stacey Cook, are also featured in the documentary.

Ms Mascall-Dare said she was indebted to Professor Scates and his students for the insights they provided into the meaning of the Anzac story to Australians today.

“As we walked the battlefields of Gallipoli, Professor Scates showed me the graves of other nationalities that fought alongside Australians at Gallipoli,” Ms Mascall-Dare said.

“He explained that the Anzac story has international significance and relevance, and how Anzac connects Australia’s to other nationalities, through the shared experience of the horrors of war.”

‘ANZAC’ also includes extracts from oral histories recorded by Professor Thomson in the 1980s with Australian veterans of World War One.

In his interview for the documentary, Professor Thomson described how some soldiers’ stories experiences have been excluded from the Anzac story in the past, including ANZACs from Indigenous and Chinese backgrounds.

“Anzac Day has a long history of inclusion and exclusion,” Professor Thomson said.

“I remember walking alongside the march in 1985 with a World War One veteran who still felt, after 70 years, that he could not join the main parade because he didn’t fit in. This fascinating documentary illuminates the complex and contested history of Anzac Day.”

‘ANZAC’ also features interviews with the Chair of the Anzac Centenary Advisory Board, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, veterans, and younger Australian’s from a range of cultural backgrounds.

‘ANZAC’ will be aired by the BBC World Service at 9.05am EST on Sunday, 9 December 2012 and rebroadcast in Australia via ABC Radio. The first broadcast coincides with the anniversary of the start of the evacuations from Gallipoli 97 years ago in 1915.