Very few things that the Australian War Memorial claims on its website about Anzac Day are true…
These are the words of Dean Aszkielowicz, an academic at the Murdoch University, to his students.
And they’ve managed to secure him a front page write up in The Australian newspaper.
Just so you know, this is what is written on the Australian War Memorial’s webpage about Anzac Day:
Anzac Day goes beyond the anniversary of the landing on Gallipoli in 1915. It is the day on which we remember all Australians who served and died in war and on operational service past and present. The spirit of Anzac, with its qualities of courage, mateship, and sacrifice, continues to have meaning and relevance for our sense of national identity.
It’s hard to know what specific parts of this paragraph Mr Aszkielowicz could have a problem with, as it is true that the Anzacs landed on Gallipoli in 1915. It is also true that Anzac Day is when we remember all those who served and died in the various conflicts in which Australia has fought. And it is also true that the qualities of those who fought have meaning and relevance for our sense of national identity.
Regardless, an academic claims they are all lies.
Dean Aszkielowicz also taught his students that Anzac Day is a cliché that will diminish in popularity, the Anzacs were killers, many of those who attend services in Gallipoli are drunk, Australia was invaded by the British and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru are prisoners.
It is kind of outrageous.
It is also an indication of the collapse of objectivity and the cultural vandalism that has captured much of academia, the media and the politics of our nation.
But it’s pretty pointless getting upset at an academic when the same message he pushes has been promoted by none other than the former Chief of Army and 2016 Australian of the Year: David Morrison.
Here are Morrison’s words on April 25, 2014:
On a day when we pay tribute to our soldiers who stormed ashore on a foreign beach, we must also remember that some Australians remember men from across the world coming here to take their land.
Remember, this was his address on the 100th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli and they were made in his capacity as Chief of Army.
And two days earlier, Morrison was railing against the Anzac Day ‘myth’ in the Australian Financial Review. The article started with these words:
The Chief of the Army, Lieutenant-General David Morrison, says he believes a myth has been created about the Anzacs that makes it harder for the military to recruit women, gays and people from different ethnic backgrounds.
A month later, Morrison was quoted saying much the same in The Australian in an article that carried this paragraph:
He said undue emphasis on Anzac stories that were “overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male, overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon” risked alienating women and indigenous and ethnic Australians, who were currently under-represented in the army.
According to Morrison, Anzac Day is racist and should check its white, male privilege.
And this man was selected as Australian of the Year.
He then went on to argue that Australians should have an Anzac Day-like event for domestic violence victims each year too. And he also waged war on the profoundly offensive word ‘guys’.
So why should we be surprised that an academic rejects Anzac Day when a Chief of Army has done exactly the same thing?
Dean Aszkielowicz’s words should lead us to question the direction of our universities. But he’s only echoing David Morrison. And Morrison’s words should lead to much deeper questions about the culture, values and direction of the Australian Defence Force.