Anzac Day Reflection – 25th April 2024

Local choir at Anzac Day Reflection 2024 in Marrickville

This year’s Anzac Day Reflection was held at the traditional site of Richardson’s Lookout – Marrickville Peace Park on Thursday 25th April. Organised by the Marrickville Peace Group (MPG), it attracted over 100 people.  In addition, a combined choir, assembled from three local choirs and comprising around 40 singers, sang a number of peace songs during the event. 

The Anzac Legend

Anzac Day has become Australia’s principle occasion of remembrance and lament for the nation’s men and women who lost their lives during the nation’s many foreign wars.

However, while it is perfectly legitimate to remember those that were killed or brutalised during war, there is absolutely no reason why we should respect the add-ons that seem inseparable from official Anzac Day commemorations.

These add-ons refer to the Anzac legend and the historical distortions that this myth entails.

In particular, the insidious Anzac legend asserts that:

  • The nation was born as Gallipoli
  • It was our first blood sacrifice
  • Our national identity was established in war time
  • We fought at Gallipoli for freedom and democracy1
  • Our national values are military values.

To quote the historian, Prof. Marilyn Lake, this is the “puff, the promotion, the propaganda … that falsifies history and does no honour to those that died”.2

As well, the Anzac narrative has been used to encourage involvement in foreign wars in the service of “great and powerful friends”. In the past this was Great Britain; today it is the USA.

Anzac Day Reflections

As the name suggests, apart from questioning the official Anzac narrative, Anzac Day Reflections offer participants an opportunity to ask some hard questions, such as how our nation became involved in foreign wars, what purposes were actually being served, and what mistakes were made in prolonging hostilities in WW1 and in other military conflicts. In other words, we need to learn from past military tragedies so we can minimise the chance of them occurring in the future.

Anzac Day Reflections also offer 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 and, importantly, to reaffirm a commitment to peace, the centrepiece of genuine remembrance.

Program

This year’s event was facilitated by MPG member Antoinette Riley. The program included:

  • Peace songs performed by combined choir
  • Acknowledgement to Country
  • Speech by Darcy Byrne
  • Speech by Melanie Morrison
  • Speech by Nick Deane
  • More peace songs performed by combined choir
  • Poetry readings at the Peace Tree
  • A minute’s silence
  • A raffle for a copy of Australian Foreign Affairs featuring High White’s essay ‘Dead in the Water: the AUKUS Delusion’, Issue 20, February 2024.

Welcome and songs performed by local choir

Following a welcome to all participants by facilitator Antoinette Riley, 40 local singers from Songs from Next Door Choir, Annandale Singers and Fiestaville Choir performed a number of peace songs. This combined choir was led by Linda Marr.3

Acknowledgement of Country

Jennifer Newman, a Wiradjuri woman, provided an Acknowledgement of Country combined with a poetry reading. Jennifer had travelled down from Wangal country in the morning to attend the event. The poem recited, written by Romaine Moreton, was entitled ‘Seasonal Revelations’.4

Speech by Darcy Byrne

Councillor Darcy Byrne, Mayor of Inner West Council, paid tribute to any ex-service personnel or current service personnel present at the reflection and acknowledged “all of the black diggers and all of the lives lost in the Frontier Wars … something we had done too little of in the past’. He also paid tribute to the victims of the attacks that took place recently in Bondi Junction together with those that put themselves in harm’s way to protect their fellow citizens.

Darcy stated that tens of thousands from the Inner West fought in WW1, and in subsequent wars, and had also “put themselves in peril so that we could live”. He said that “too often that legacy is memoralised in a way that glorifies war” which makes it likely that the same tradegy will happen again.

It was noted that there were currently more that 30 conflicts raging around the world and that this situation was something the community failed to talk enough about.

On behalf of the Inner West Council, Darcy thanked the Marrickville Peace Group and its network of local citizens for its constant vigilance, advocacy and insistence “that we must never go to war again if it can be avoided – that we must never needlessly subject a new generation of young Australians to that terrible tragedy”.

Speech by Melanie Morrison

Melanie Morrison, Director of Sydney Peace Foundation at the University of Sydney and new Board Member of Addison Road Community Organisation in Marrickville, began her speech by saying that she was “incredibly fortunate to have inherited her mother’s propensity for protest”. Her mother, Marty Morrison, was a social justice advocate, a peacemaker and “a self-proclaimed compulsive protester”.5

Melanie’s speech covered a number of issues including:

  • The impacts of war on families and the community, including the high rate of suicide among veterans
  • The billions spent by Australia and other Western nations “fueling the war machine when this money could be spent on common humanity the the common good”
  • The many wars that are currently raging around the world “from Myanmar to Yemen, from Ukraine to the Sudan, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and across the Middle East where millions lost their lives because of the ill-conceived war on terror which has only succeeded in creating more terror and disruption”
  • The war on Gaza and Palestinians where “we are seeing the very worst of humanity in Israel’s genocidal assault on Palestine”.
  • The propect of positive change generated by the millions of people taking to the streets around the world in an unprecedented show of solidarity for peace and justice in Palestine
  • Student protests and encampments across U.S. campuses, as well as at the University of Sydney, where demands are being made for their institutions to cut ties with companies and projects that profit from war and Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestine6
  • A 24 hour, 7-days-a-week pro-Palestine sit-in outside PM Anthony Albanese’s office in Marrickville organised by a range of dedicated activists, including Families for Palestine, who are seeking a consultation (yet to be granted) with the local federal representative.7

Melanie stated that Australia could be a better nation and called upon its political leadership to break with “the curse of senseless war”.

Melanie concluded her speech with one of her mother’s favourite quotes, namely a quote from French philosopher, novelist and essayist, Albert Camus, who said: “I should be able to love my country and still love justice”.8 A copy of Melanie’s speech can be found here.

Speech by Nick Deane

Nick Deane, MPG’s Covenor, stated that Anzac commemorations should “honour all who have experienced and been effected by war, all of whom are, one way or another, war’s victims”. The best way of avoiding war, he said, was by “promoting the overwhelming positive attributes of living in peace”.

Other matters covered in the speech included:

  • By characterising the calamitous Gallipoli campaign as some sort of noble endeavour, the Anzac narrative hides the “moral injury of war”
  • Humanity needs to outgrow war, to recognise that it has been a failure and is now redundant, especially in the context of nuclear weapons
  • Advanced technological tools of communication should be used to enhance diplomacy and resolve disputes without resorting to violence
  • Despite Australia playing a key role in the creation of the UN Charter, the country’s political leadership took us into more wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, which were “in no way ‘defensive’, had little justification and produced disastrous outcomes”
  • The manufactured fear of China is misguided and is fueled by the poorly conceived and costly AUKUS project, which is based on the idea that war between the USA and China is a possibility. A war between these powers would be highly destructive to Australia and the potential use of nuclear weapons makes such a conflict unthinkable.

Nick stated that the best way for Australia to honour all those soldiers killed, maimed and traumatised by war, along with their impacts on family and community members, was by committing itself to peace. In adopting this agenda, Australia would be well served by listening and learning from its Indigenous population. Rather than seeking recognition for its military prowess, Nick argued that Australia should strive to be “a champion of peace.”9 A copy of his speech can be accessed here.

More songs performed by local choir

Following the speeches, the local choir came together again and performed two additional songs.

Poetry readings beside the Peace Tree and a Minute’s silence

After the choir’s final song, participants moved down the park to the Peace Tree. Here they heard poetry readings by Malcolm Fraser and Jennifer Newman. Malcolm, a long term MPG member, read extracts from a poem entitled ‘The Anzac Graves on Gallipoli’ by Australian poet & WW2 serviceman Michael Thwaites, while Jennifer read more poetry from Romaine Moreton’s collection Post me to the Prime Minister.

A Minute’s silence in honour of all victims of war was then observed.

Raffle and refreshments

The event concluded with a raffle being held for a copy of Australian Foreign Affairs featuring High White’s essay ‘Dead in the Water: the AUKUS Delusion’, Issue 20, February 2024, followed by homemade snacks and refreshments.

Notes
1. For an accurate account of the Gallipoli campaign, refer to Douglas Newton, ‘‘Impactful projection’ Australia, 1915 style: Lest we forget Anzac Cove’Pearls and Irritations, Apr 25, 2024.
2. Prof. Marilyn Lake in The Wheeler Centre / St James Ethics Centre debate on ‘Anzac Day is More Puff than Substance’, Melbourne Town Hall, Apr 30, 2013 – start 47.30 mins; end 58.12 mins.
3. ‘I’ve Got Peace Like a River/Kumbaya’ – one of the songs performed by the combined choir at the Anzac Day Reflection.
4. Romaine Moreton, ‘Seasonal Revelations’ from Post me to the Prime Minister, 2004.
5. Refer to MPG’s post ‘Vale Marty Morrison’, Sep 5, 2021.
6. Zeina Khochaiche, ‘Day 3 of Sydney University encampment efforts continues’, Honi Soit, Apr 25, 2024.
7. Refer to MPG’s post ‘Sit-in continues outside PM Albanese’s electoral office in Marrickville’, Mar 6, 2024.
8. The full text by Albert Camus is: “And I should like to be able to love my country and still love justice. I don’t want any greatness for it, particularly a greatness born of blood and falsehood. I want to keep it alive by keeping justice alive”, from Resistance, Rebellion, and Death, a 1960 collection of essays written and selected by the author prior to his death.
9. Raising Peace, Anzac Day statement ‘Australia can become a global champion of peace’, Apr 2024. Also refer to Paul Gregoire, ‘Talking Peace on ANZAC Day: An Interview with Raising Peace’s James Cox’, Sydney Criminal Lawyers, Apr 24. 2024.

Additional information
Douglas Newton, ‘‘Impactful projection’ Australia, 1915 style: Lest we forget Anzac Cove’Pearls and Irritations, Apr 25, 2024.
Paul Daley, ‘On Anzac Day you’ll hear stories of courage and mateship. It’s a way to rationalise war’The Guardian, Apr 25, 2024.
Greg Lockhart, ‘Anzac Day: Australia’s imperial romance with white Anglo-American global dominance’Pearls and Irritations, Apr 25, 2024.

2 thoughts on “Anzac Day Reflection – 25th April 2024

  1. Thank you, Jon, for your informative report of the Anzac Day event in Marrickville Peace Park.
    In my view, this is the most important point:-
    “That we must never go to war again if it can be avoided – that we must never needlessly subject a new generation of young Australians to that terrible tragedy.”
    Please help us to work for this in a creative, peaceful and meaningful way.

  2. Excellent work by the Marrickville Peace Group.

    This is what Anzac Day should be about; a time of reflection to mourn those who died and the futility of war.

    History will not be kind to PM Albanese nor the Labor Government on this matter.

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