Anzac remembered

Photo: ABIS Jayson Tufrey - Navy Imagery Unit-West
Photo: ABIS Jayson Tufrey – Navy Imagery Unit-West

As the centenary of the Great War draws ever closer, Monash University researchers are leading the field in researching the effects of war on Australian families, communities and the nation.

Led by the University’s Chair of History and Australian Studies at the National Centre for Australian Studies Professor Bruce Scates, a team of PhD students and historians are taking to cities and towns to ask people directly about their thoughts on the day as part of the Anzac Day at Home and Abroad: A Centenary History of Australia’s National Day projectThe project is of part of the preparations to mark the 100th anniversary of Anzac Day in 2015.

PhD candidate in the National Centre for Australian Studies Rebecca Wheatley will accompany American historian Professor Jay Winter to Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance dawn service. Professor Winter is visiting from Yale University to present lectures and seminars in the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation and the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies. As the general editor of the forthcoming Cambridge history of the Great War, he is a keen observer of commemorative practices around the world.

In the UK, the Director of the University’s Australia and International Tourism Research Unit Dr Keir Reeves will observe commemorations in Cambridge, where he has been working as a visiting fellow at Clare Hall, University of Cambridge since March.

Professor Scates will be heading to Auckland for Anzac Day services there. With the increased attention given to Australians in the Great War, it is sometimes easy to overlook the ‘NZ’ in Anzac on this side of the Tasman. The differences and similarities between the two countries serve as an important comparison in this research. Newly-arrived PhD candidate Margaret Harris, a former member of the New Zealand Defence Force, will also be applying her research to the ways in which Anzac services differ between the two countries.

Laura James from the National Centre for Australian Studies, whose research centres on Anzac commemoration in regional Australia, is travelling to Hay, NSW, to interview and survey citizens of this prosperous agricultural and pastoral region. 

Project co-ordinator Dr Damien Williams from the School of Journalism and Australian Studies will also be turning his attention to regional commemoration. He will be travelling to Queenscliff and Point Lonsdale – two places that share a strong rivalry as well as links with colonial defence, telecommunication and the life of one of Australia’s greatest prime ministers, Alfred Deakin.

Other Monash researchers will be present in Sydney and at alternative Anzac Day services in Melbourne.

Well-founded criticisms of the mythology around Anzac underscore the need for concentrated research on what motivates people to remember such a bloody event of almost one hundred years ago. Monash researchers are continuing to make an original contribution to understanding how this aspect of the past continues to have such a prominent place in the present.  

The Anzac Day survey can be found on the Monash website.

Professor Scates and Dr Williams will be interviewed on these topics (and more) on ABC Radio National’sLife Matters at 9am on 25 April.

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