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Professor Anna Haebich - Q ANZAC 100 Heritage Leaders' Workshops

By JOL Admin | 1 April 2014

Guest blogger: Professor Anna Haebich

I'm sitting in the spacious John Oxley Library reading room in the State Library of Queensland gathering my thoughts for the opening panel of its Q ANZAC 100 heritage leaders' workshops from 2-4 April. People are coming from all over the state so I'm looking forward to a few days packed with discussion, creative ideas and, I'm certain, disagreements, all tinged with sadness, respect and honoring of the past.

I've been invited from Western Australia and my mind is a reeling at how much is happening over here for the World War I centenary commemorations, generously funded by the State Government - all the searching, collecting, digitising, recording and exhibitions, websites and projects.

The Australian War Memorial leads the charge with ANZAC connections an online site of historic documents from its archive and has a host of new exhibitions and an elaborate Dawn Service planned for 25 April.

The National Archives has digitized all its 376,000 individual service records, hosted a touring exhibition Shell-shocked Australia: After Armistice and created an interactive website Discovering ANZACS that maps their origins and invites users to add memories and images.

The SLQ has its usual standout creative and unique approach. Q ANZAC 100: Memories for a New Generation will 'commemorate and celebrate our history, capture living memories, and help current and future generations understand Queensland's experiences during and after the First World War – renewing the First World War and Anzac legacy.' Fantastic! I love how SLQ innovatively brings people of all backgrounds and generations together to think in new ways.

Things are quieter in WA. There's been a steady stream of local events and monuments - over 60 built since 2000 and of course we have Albany. The town was the last Australian port of call for 38 troop ships of ANZACs bound for Gallipoli and townspeople have been commemorating this momentous visit ever since with memorials, avenues of trees, gardens, street and place names and allegedly the first Dawn Service. Now, with federal funding, the town is turning itself into a national pilgrimage site and a vital stop on the great pilgrimage trek to Gallipoli and overseas war cemeteries.

Don Watson makes some sobering comments on this 'commemorative frenzy' taking over the nation in his piece 'Lest we go over the top' in the February Monthly. He warns against igniting history wars over blame and cause, of cynical political opportunism, of preening patriotism and glorifying war. Instead he invites us to get angry over the slaughter of at least 12 million people and, given the vast scale of the war, he wonders how much of the war do we intent to remember and how much can we remember?

I feel certain that the SLQ's Q ANZAC 100 approach will enable Queenslanders of all backgrounds and generations to openly discuss and debate such vital issues and to generate new understandings that are relevant to today. I'm less confident in the approaches of our national institutions.

Professor Anna Haebich - John Curtin Distinguished Professor - Senior Research Fellow - Vice President Australian Academy of the Humanities


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