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ANZAC outback

AUSTRALIA | Saturday, 3 May 2008 | Views [1403]

What’s ANZAC day all about? It seems to be different for everyone. It depends on what and who you know and where you’re from.

I remember marching when I was under 6, drumming in the early morning parade for the local RSL. You had to be quiet for a whole minute.  And stock still. While the drum sticks wanted to keep drumming.

I recoiled from ANZAC day parades as I grew older, seeing them as a celebration and reminder of aspects of white Australia that I didn’t like.

Racism, aggression, short sightedness, ignorance, blindly being pawns of political power, mindless Aussie cheering, arrogance united with stupidity.

Here I am, on my rediscovery of Australia, ready to reveal a new meaning for ANZAC day.   

In the Northern Territory, there are WWII Memorials all over the place. Of course, Darwin was bombed and resulted in a full scale military occupation. They had a lot of things going on, ‘just in case’.

In Mt Surprise, a cattle town, I read this poem up on a notice board


It is the soldier, not the reporter,

who has given us freedom of the press,

It is the soldier, not the poet,

who has given us freedom of speech,

It is the soldier, not the campus organiser,

who has given us the freedom to demonstrate,

It is the soldier, not the lawyer,

who has given us the right to a fair trial,

It is the soldier who salutes the flag,

who serves under the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protestor to burn the flag.

By Philip Steele (submitted to a newspaper (I couldn’t discover) by Greg Cullen, Vietnam Veteran, from Upper Barron.


I don’t want to take away from the past. I want to try to understand, in the context of the times, the motivation, the patriotism, and the feelings of sacrifice associated with war.  I don’t want to judge people for what has happened. I just want to say I remember, I’m sorry for it, it’s a SHARED history and it has made our present. We need to learn from the past and forge a new path to move into the future.

We were in the Cloncurry Library when I picked up a book entitled The Last ANZAC’s. Lest we forget, written and photographed by Tony Stephens and Steven Stewert.  In it, I read words that gave me hope and inspired me to write positively of my new understanding of ANZAC day.

The Last ANZAC’s

Doug Dibley ‘It does deem to be to be a peculiar world in which we live when we can not think of any other way of settling disputes, without murdering one another.’

Tom Epps ‘The are not days about the glory of war or about Nationalism, but a lesson in the futility of war. I was brainless, but I’m not sorry I went. It taught me how stupid the politicians  and military can be. They were boneheads. The 1914-18 war was a mass murder. 99% of war is stupid.’

‘If there is no other way of settling arguments, the human race should be exterminated.’

Roy Kyle ‘Empires come and go. Enemies become friends, friends become enemies. Everything changes. Little lasts.’

Roy Longmore ‘They’re no good, these wars. A lot of lives lost, no use at all. There’s got to be another way of fixing up these rows without killing each other.’

Ted Mathews (famously) ‘Some people call us ‘five-bob-a-day’ murderers, but the politicians were the murderers. Politicians make up the wars. They don’t go to them.’

Jack Buntime – His ‘early life taught him the value of the family’.

Alec Campbell – He ‘insisted that all his children receive good educations and grow up to think for them selves’.

Just as a child grows, so does a country. Just as we mimic our elders, so does the country look to older models as a guide on how to be a nation. And just as the child grows into adult hood and develops the need to express itself in its own way, so does the people of each country.  And we have the voice. We have the freedom, if we choose it, to learn from the mistakes of the past, and to create a new way of ‘settling arguments’, ‘fixing up rows’, ‘settling disputes’.

We can learn. We can shake our head to our parents and say, no, I don’t want to follow your footsteps any more. Our parents might threaten us, they might bully us, they might take away our privileges, but it’s the right of a growing nation to take the blows happily, knowing that every step it takes in a new direction, on its own, it gains freedom and learning and respect.

Its ok to admit we were wrong. Its ok to start again, to try again, and make it better this time.

But learn from the past we must. Don’t let their lives be a waste. Learn from what they have said. Find new ways to talk about our differences.

And it starts with you. And with me. Violence in the home, in the school yard, in the work place, in the pubs, on the road. Commit to ‘another way’ to settle arguments. Explore channels of communication. What works? What doesn’t?  How many people have to die because they should learn their bloody lesson?

Comments more than welcome. Just don't knock me on the head 'cause you don't like what I say.

Tags: allwelcome, ambassador van, t a j

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