In the early twenty-first century, we see Anzac adrift. As the Great War passes from memory to history the meaning of Anzac is more contested and more problematic than ever. Professor Bruce Scates will consider the fraught politics of commemoration as Australia and the world commemorate the Centenary of the Great War. His lecture will examine the making and remaking of memorial spaces, the role the ‘memory boom’ has played in generating interest in the Great War, and explore new archives set to change the way we remember 1914-1918.
In 2012, a team of researchers based at Monash University offered the 100 Stories project to the Anzac Centenary Board in Canberra – 100 stories to mark the centenary of the Great War. These narratives were drawn from across the length and breadth of Australia. They highlighted the experience of women as well as men, recovered the too often forgotten contribution of Indigenous Australians, and emphasised the ongoing cost of war to the community as a whole. The 100 Stories remembered not just the men and women who lost their lives but also those who returned to Australia, the gassed, the crippled, the insane, all those irreparably damaged by war. Why did the 100 Stories prove so controversial in Canberra? Why did some seek to censor the project and substitute ‘confronting’ stories with ‘positive, nation building’ narratives? And one hundred years on, is Australia prepared to confront the cost of war – or will the Anzac Centenary be more an act of forgetting than remembering?
A hundred years ago, the Gallipoli landings became a story of lost opportunities. Are we losing the opportunity of a more inclusive and genuinely transnational form of commemoration today?
Professor Bruce Scates FASSA is the Director of the National Centre for Australian Studies. He is the author of several books on war and memory, including Return to Gallipoli (Cambridge 2006); A Place to Remember: a History of the Shrine of Remembrance (Cambridge 2009), and lead author of Anzac Journeys (Cambridge 2014). His imagined history of Gallipoli, On Dangerous Ground, was commended in the Christina Stead awards. Professor Scates played a leading role in the production of the ABC series ‘The War that Changed Us’ and is the lead chief investigator on an Australian Research Council project charting the history of Anzac Day.
Listen to the Annual History Lecture 2015:
A special thank you to James Murray from Sydney Living Museums for the recording!