This year’s Anzac Day Reflection was held in Richardson’s Lookout – Marrickville Peace Park.
The occasion offered participants an opportunity to remember the loss of Australian servicemen and women in WW1 and subsequent wars, along with the physical harm and psychological trauma suffered by others that served, as well as the grief endured by their families.
As the name suggests, however, Anzac Day Reflections aim to do more than recognise Australian casualties resulting from military service in foreign lands. In the spirit of genuine remembrance, they offer participants the opportunity to ask some hard questions, such as how our nation became involved in these wars, what purposes were actually being served, and what mistakes were made in prolonging hostilities.
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.1
In other words, we need to learn from past military tragedies so that we can minimise the chance of them occurring in the future.
This year’s event, facilitated by John Butcher, involved a variety of contributions motivated by these sentiments.2 These included:
- An ‘Acknowledgement of Country’ by Jennifer Newman (a local Wiradjuri resident);
- Speech (audio version) by Linda Burney MP (Member for Barton) on the Frontier Wars;
- Speech by Jo Blackman (MPG) on women and war;
- Poetry readings by Andy Kissane (writer and poet); and
- A raffle for Henry Reynolds’ Truth-Telling, History, Sovereignty and the Uluru Statement (published Feb 2021) donated by Gleebooks.
Linda Burney MP, who was invited to draw the winning ticket, actually drew one of her own. Magnanimously she declined the prize and drew another belonging to Jennifer Newman, a Wiradjuri woman and Inner West resident.
An important feature of Anzac Day Reflections is the opportunity it offers participants to present their own stories and reflections on war and peace. This event was no exception, with many people stepping forward to share their thoughts and experiences.
- The alienation felt by migrant communities during Anzac Day commemorations;
- Recounting a soldier’s service record in the Vietnam War;
- Reading of David Krieger’s ‘A Message to Youth’;
- Resisting China threat narratives;
- On peace being more than the absence of war; and
- Having your say regarding an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
Befitting this Anzac Day Reflection are the words of Henry Reynolds:
At the moment when we remember the sacrifice of our war dead, we completely ignore the suffering and the death of people of the first nations in the frontier wars which effected the long drawn out conquest of indigenous Australia. Our national lament is for those who died overseas in wars chosen for us by our great and powerful friends, most of the time against enemies who would never have been able to threaten Australia. How is that commensurate with frontier wars fought in Australia about the ownership and control of the continent itself? For us this must be of far greater significance than the balance of power in Europe or the scramble to carve up the remains of the Ottoman Empire.3