This year’s Anzac Day Reflection was held in Richardson’s Lookout – Marrickville Peace Park. This was the eighth time that the event has been held in Marrickville Peace Park since 2014, with no event occurring in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Organised by the Marrickville Peace Group, the event attracted around 50 people. In the spirit of genuine remembrance, these events offer participants the opportunity to ask some hard questions, such as how our nation became involved in wars abroad, what purposes were actually being served, and what mistakes were made in prolonging hostilities.
Official Anzac Day commemorations tend to ignore such questions in favour of celebrating “sacrifice and heroism” along with fostering such fictions as the nation was born at Gallipoli and our national identity was established in wartime.
As in previous years, the event also offered participants the opportunity to reflect on the suffering and death of First Nations people in the Frontier Wars that resulted in the long drawn out conquest of Indigenous Australia.
As noted by Peter Stanley in his article ‘A strange Anzac day’, this Anzac Day was no ordinary event on the ceremonial calendar. It coincided with a Federal election campaign in which Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Minister for Defence Peter Dutton and their political allies, such as the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, have campaigned hard to manufacture concerns over national security.
Morrison has used tensions between the United States and China, and by extension Australia and China, along with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the development of the AUKUS alliance and the plan to acquire long-range nuclear propelled submarines, to inflame such concerns.
It is becoming increasing evident that the Coalition’s reliance on a ‘khaki election’ represents a desperate effort to divert public attention away from its failings in dealing with national emergencies (floods, bushfires and the pandemic), not to mention their failings in relation to social and affordable housing, climate change, aged care, energy security and many other critical policy areas.
Anzac Day Program
This year’s program included:
- An ‘Acknowledgement of Country’ by Jennifer Newman (a local Wiradjuri resident)
- A minute’s silence as a sign of respect and a time for contemplation
- Speech by Nick Deane on the ‘cult of the fallen’ promoted by official Anzac Day ceremonies
- Speech by Peter Griffin on colonial frontier massacres
- Unveiling of the Peace Tree’s signage by Councillor Justine Langford
- A raffle for Stuart Rees’ book Cruelty or Humanity, Policy Press 2020.
Genuine remembrance corrupted
In the absence of Linda Burney MP who was unable to attend the event, Nick Deane drew upon Douglas Newton’s article ‘The fantasy that haunts our cult of the fallen’. This article criticises leaders of the political class who attend Anzac Day ceremonies to praise the Anzacs’ sacrifice, service and comradeship, while “committing fantastic sums to promote the cult of the fallen, and denounce any history that dares to veer away from a simple ‘take a bow, Australia’ spirit.”1
The fantasy is based upon the falsehood that our political leaders so “love the serving men and women that they would never recklessly commit them to war”. By briefly examining how Australia actually become involved in WW1, the Vietnam War and the Howard government’s decision to join the United States led ‘coalition of the willing’ to disarm Iraq of its non-existent ‘weapons of mass destruction’, the historical record of our political leaders’ duplicity, deceit and recklessness in sending our servicemen and women to foreign wars is exposed.2
Compounding the fantasy promulgated by our political leaders is their refusal to democratise the decisions that would plunge live Anzacs into war. This undeniably is the true measure of how little our political leaders actually respect those in uniform.3
The speech by Peter Griffin focused on colonial frontier massacres in Australia, 1788 to 1930. Reference was made to the impressive research carried out by a team of academics led by Lyndall Ryan at the University of Newcastle. The aim of this research was to:
- Identify and record sites of frontier massacres of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people across Australia from 1788 to 1930, and
- Provide the first Australia wide record of frontier massacres that is comprehensive, based on a rigorous methodology, with well-structured data and a map, and providing the available evidence for each frontier massacre site.4
The interactive map produced by the research team identifies 416 sites of frontier massacre, in which 11,174 were killed, a number that is indicative rather than definitive.
As emphasised by Henry Reynolds, the Frontier Wars fought in Australia over the ownership and control of the continent itself is of “far greater significance than the balance of power in Europe or the scramble to carve up the remains of the Ottoman Empire.”5
Peace Tree’s signage unveiled
Following the speeches, participants moved down to the Peace Tree located in the lower south-eastern corner of the park. The Peace Tree, a magnificent Sydney Red Gum, was donated by the former Marrickville Council and planted by community members on Anzac Day in 2016. There Clr Justine Langford from the Inner West Council unveiled the Peace Tree’s signage installed at the base of the tree – see below.
Finally, participants retraced their steps to the upper reaches of the park where refreshments were served and the drawing of the raffle for Stuart Rees’ book Cruelty or Humanity took place.
1. Douglas Newton, ‘The fantasy that haunts our cult of the fallen’, Pearls and Irritations, Apr 24, 2022.
3. Alison Broinowski, Submission on Defence Amendment (Parliamentary Approval of Overseas Service) Bill 2020, Australians for War Powers Reform, Oct 6, 2021.
4. Centre for 21st Century Humanities, ‘Colonial Frontier Massacres in Australia, 1788-1930’, University of Newcastle, 2022.
5. Henry Reynolds, ‘Anzac Day’, Pearls and Irritations, Apr 24, 2019.