This Exhibition, Australia's Engagement with War, is related to a further three Exhibitions: The Anzac Tradition, The Roles of Women in War, and The Conscription Debate. In examining representations of Australians at war in both the CLDR texts and contemporary texts these Exhibitions are guided by the overarching maxim "Some things change; some things stay the same".
Suggested Audience: Primary & Secondary
This trail contains three sections:
Trail created by Cherie Allan.
Upon the outbreak of conflict in World War I men were initially eager to volunteer for overseas service. However, as the war dragged on the number of new volunteers signing up declined. Several campaigns appealing for more volunteers failed to produce sufficient numbers to cover losses already sustained, so the then Prime Minister, W. M. (Billy) Hughes, decided to have a referendum on the issue of conscription. The issue caused deep divisions within Australia with large meetings held both for and against the idea of conscription. Many people thought positively of conscription as a sign of loyalty to Britain and believed that it would also support the men at the front. However, trade unions feared that their members might be replaced by foreign or female labour and opposed conscription. Yet others opposed it on moral or religious grounds.
The women's vote was seen as important and campaign information from both sides targeted women voters. The first referendum (1916) was narrowly lost which caused further divisions and resulted in a split in the Australian Labor Party. Another vote in 1917 was also lost.
The conscription debate was raised again in 1943 during World War II. However, rather than risk a referendum on the issue, Prime Minister Curtin allowed the Labor Party to debate the decision to allow Australian troops to fight beyond the current areas where Australian troops could be sent on active service. The Act was changed with little opposition expressed which thus avoided the divisiveness and bitterness of the 1916/1917 referenda.
During the Vietnam War the National Services Act (1964) introduced compulsory National Service for 20-year-old males, with the selection process based on a ballot related to date of birth. Widespread opposition to conscription escalated during the late 1960s including campaigns by various women's groups such as the Save our Sons (SOS) organisation. Following the election of the Australian Labor Party to Federal Government on December 2nd 1972 conscription was ended on December 5th, 1972. To date there has not been any further conflicts in which Australian conscripts have been forcibly recruited.
See below for resources related to the conscription debate:
Of particular relevance in this collection is the story "The Memorial" on the Great War which is also featured in the Trail on The Anzac Tradition. A study of the story also reveals the attitude of those in favour of conscription and their suspicions of those who were against it: "When compulsory military service had been mooted, in the days when the War was going badly, he had volunteered for active service, but had banked on the certainty of being rejected on the score of a shattered kneecap and a defective vision" (p. 34).
Tagged by Gary Crew and Steven Woolman has been described both as a picturebook and a graphic novel; It also contains elements of a comic. The text follows a young boy Jimmy as he takes his dog Max for an early Sunday morning walk. The pair stumbles across what appears to be an abandoned industrial site. As Max races off after a rat Jimmy, despite a growing uneasiness, is forced to follow. In the depths of the factory Jimmy discovers a scruffy man who turns out to be a Vietnam veteran. There are a number of threads running through the book with the main story rendered in colour interspersed with black and white images of a fighter pilot perhaps representing both Jimmy's day dreams of being a pilot and the living nightmares of the Vietnam veteran. This serves to provide a stark contrast between the excitement and heroism of Jimmy's day dreams and the brutal reality of the veteran's lived experiences.
The legend of The Anzac spirit is a topic which has generated a great deal of discussion and debate over the years since 1915. General Sir Ian Hamilton’s introduction to Bud the Monkey, and Other Tales of Soldiers’ Pets (1932) demonstrates the high esteem in which the ANZACs were held: “But the chief distinction of an Anzac is that he was the first, the biggest, and the finest of all the war exports of Australia and New Zealand” (p.12). Gradually, through Australia’s involvement in subsequent wars, these sentiments led to the development of an ‘Anzac spirit’ which epitomises courage and endurance in the face of adversity rather than refer specifically to those who fought at Gallipoli. While fervour surrounding the Anzac Tradition has waxed and waned in the intervening years it is currently enjoying a period of popularity particularly in the lead up to the Centenary of the landing at Gallipoli in 2015.. Attending the commemoration ceremonies at Gallipoli on Anzac Day is undertaken as a pilgrimage by tens of thousands of Australians each year. The Australians at War website (see below) suggests: “The Anzac spirit will only remain relevant in the future if the Gallipoli tradition can be re-interpreted”. In engaging with both the CLDR texts and the contemporary texts and resources listed on this Exhibition the following question needs to be considered: How do the contemporary texts under study reinterpret the Anzac tradition as it is represented in the CLDR texts?
Perhaps Dorothy Wall's famous character Blinky Bill represents the larrikin element which is an integral part of the Anzac Tradition. Blinky Bill plays soldiers in the bush with his friends: frogs, tadpoles, and rabbits as well as bull ants. Some Australian soldiers, who are looking for a mascot, see Blinky drilling his 'army' and ask him to be the mascot for Australian soldiers in Sydney. Not knowing what a mascot is, Blinky Bill at first refuses. Later, as he prepares to leave his home, Blinky celebrates with his mother and his bush friends through a series of competitions and concerts which result in laughter and joy, as well as the odd fight.
Suggested Audience: Primary
More unusual pets include mice, frogs, and pigeons. This early text is a forerunner of more recent texts which focus on soldiers pets. See for example The Donkey Who Carried the Wounded by Jackie French (2009) and M is for Mates (from the Australian War Memorial).
Suggested audience: Primary
The relevant story in this collection is Children of Anzac (pp. 40-43) which tells about a returned soldier who wants to go to the Anzac Day march but cannot afford the train fare nor the time away from his farm. However, his children arrange for a neighbour to help with the jobs and offer their pocket money to their father so that he can remember his mates who never came back.
Of particular relevance in this collection is the story "The Memorial" on the Great War. It offers an interesting exercise in the use of language to position readers to adopt a particular stance. It tells the story of a memorial being erected in memory of the soldiers who lost their lives in World War I. Upon a handyman expressing his opinion that it is a waste of money the narrator suggests: "But he was a disgruntled, soured little man, embittered against his fellows, against authority and those who sit in high places, against Empire and all that sort of thing" (p.33). Compare this with his description of the men who form a guard at the unveiling of the memorial: "They were smart very smart and soldierly-looking, big-chested boys they were, with a good, clean glow in their cheeks and health in their eyes." (p.37)
There is irony in the narrator's comment in relation to the handyman:" Like others of his kind, he had lost his balance somewhat, and was apt to be extreme in his views, and in his bitterness." (p.33)The narrator, too, seems to be extreme in his views and in his indignation, but does not recognise this.
This collection of fairy tales, nursery rhymes, limericks, and so on, written by the public in response to a competition held by the Sun-Raysed Dried Fruit company in 1919, is an excellent example of a popular cultural text. The language of both the Foreword (About This Book) and the competition entries is full of national fervour which is hardly surprising so soon after the end of World War I. It includes some poems written about Anzacs.
She explains her grandfather's motivations: \"He marches for all his friends who can't march. He marches for us.\" (This echoes the sentiments expressed by the father in the CLDR story Children of Anzac described above.) Readers are given an account of the significance of Anzac Day through the small girl's observations. Her vow at the end of the book: \"One day I will march on Anzac Day, and I will do the remembering\" points to a reinterpretation of the Gallipoli Tradition. The website Gallipoli and the Anzacs listed above could be used in conjunction with this picture book to explain the rituals and artefacts associated with Anzac Day celebrations.
Suggested audience: Primary
The Donkey who Carried the Wounded by Jackie French tells the now famous legend of Simpson and his donkey, with a difference, as the events of the story are presented from several different viewpoints. Not only do readers hear Simpson's account of the landing at Gallipoli and the gruelling months that followed but they also hear from, among others, a Turkish sniper, the New Zealand stretcher bearer Richard Henderson who took over from Simpson, along with the musings of Duffy as he went about his work. This text is an excellent vehicle through which students can look at how texts enable readers to take up different reading positions. French, through a mix of fact and fiction, offers her own reinterpretation of the spirit of Gallipoli.
Suggested audience: Primary
This novel follows an Australian girl Ellie as she travels with her mother to Turkey to commemorate Anzac Day at Gallipoli. The pair stays in a boarding house run by a Turkish woman and her daughter Zeynep. When the two young girls discover that their grandfathers fought on opposite sides in the war this link leads to a developing friendship. See the tribute to ANZACs written by Turkish President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1934: http://explorersfoundation.org/glyphery/354.html Just as President Ataturk proclaimed that: \"There is no difference between the Johnnies and Mehmets to us\" - so too Ellie and Zeynep find more commonalities than differences in their lives.
Suggested audience: Secondary
This YA novel is the first in the Tomorrow series by John Marsden. It is a coming-of-age novel which details the invasion and occupation of Australia by an unidentified foreign power. Told through a first-person narration by central character Ellie it provides a powerful portrayal of young people forced to deal with a life-threatening situation. In the process they also undertake a journey of self-discovery. The novel has been made into a film which was released in 2010 (see Role of Women in War Trail). One interesting exercise would be to consider the process of adaptation from book to film.
Suggested audience: Secondary
Alan Seymour's play, One day of the Year (1958) was written at a time when many Australians, particularly young people, were questioning the whole mythology surrounding Anzac Day. This generational shift is played out as Alf supports Anzac Day celebrations while son, Hughie, ridicules them. Ironically, the title of the play which was seen as critical of aspects of the commemoration of Anzac Day has come to be synonymous with it.
Suggested audience: Upper Secondary
Gallipoli and the Anzacs: contains a wide variety of interactive and informative segments on all things to do with Gallipoli and the Anzacs. It also contains a section for teachers and students called Teaching Gallipoli. See, for example, the segment Anzac a National Heirloom at the bottom of the Home page. Is it possible that the CLDR text Sun-Raysed Children's Fairy Story Book (1919) was an attempt to circumvent the ban on the inappropriate use of the word Anzac?
Australians at War: this site was developed in conjunction with the television series Australians at War. It brings to life many of the military events of Australia's history through the use of animated documentaries, video, audio and activities. It also contains a section specifically designed for primary and lower secondary school students at: http://www.australiansatwar.gov.au/education/index.html
'Fight free of Anzac, lest we forget other stories': an article from The Age newspaper presents another perspective on the Anzac Tradition. Marilyn Lake (2009) argues that the myth of the ANZACs "seeks to locate our national identity in the masculine domain of military warfare". This attitude, according to Lake, marginalises a whole range of people: women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, those of the peace movement and so on.
This poster is from the Picture Australia collection at the National Australia Library. The NLA has an impressive collection of wartime posters which can be accessed from their website at: http://www.nla.gov.au/pict/pictorial.html This particular poster, used as propaganda to recruit soldiers, draws parallels between the iconic Australian bushman and the soldier. This issue, among others, is examined in the journal article by David Robert Walker on "War, Women and The Bush" featured as part of the Role of Women in War Exhibition. What other 'themes' are utilised in other war posters in the collection?
How is this belief of the superiority of the Bush reflected in the image of the bushman/soldier of the poster listed in The Anzac Tradition above?
According to Bonza Schooldays, 'With Wendy at Winterton School follows Wendy's progression from a rebellious new girl to a valued member of the school [...] Wendy, the daughter of a butcher, is initially concerned the school will be full of snobs, showing her dislike for Felicity, the Head Prefect. When the Head compares Wendy's disloyalty to that of war traitors, Wendy begins to change her attitude and reconciles with Felicity, realising her error in judgement.(...more)
This novel is more a school story than a war story. However, it is set during wartime and allows readers a glimpse of the roles women and girls were expected to fulfil during war. It also documents the importance of patriotism to both school and country and the role Christian faith played in many people's belief systems. Wendy's bravery and near death parallels the constant danger in which the soldiers are placed. See the start of Chapter 6: The Ambulance Fund (pp. 40-43) for an outline of the effects of war on those left at home.
'The "War to end all Wars", as seen through the eyes of three young women.
'It is 1915. War is being fought on a horrific scale in the trenches of France, but it might as well be a world away from sixteen-year-old New Zealander Midge Macpherson, at school in England learning to be a young lady. But the war is coming closer: Midge's brothers are in the army, and her twin, Tim, is listed as 'missing' in the devastating defeat of the Anzac forces at Gallipoli.
'Desperate to do their bit - and avoid the boredom of school and the restrictions of Society - Midge and her friends Ethel and Anne start a canteen in France, caring for the endless flow of wounded soldiers returning from the front.(...more)
'The sixties are in full swing and going to a war is the last thing on Kathy's mind. For sixteen-year-old Kathy, it's all about miniskirts, the Beatles, discos and her fab new boots! The world is rapidly changing, her brother is fighting in the Vietnam War and her best friend is protesting against it. Kathy simply wants to live life and experience a world beyond her suburban existence. So when the chance comes for her to dance with an entertainment troupe in Vietnam, she slips on her boots, walks away from her convent school and heads off to war.(...more)
Related to the Vietnam war and includes discussions on the role of women and the conscription debate.
While the experiences of Australian soldiers involved in the Vietnam War have been extensively examined very little has been published on the experiences of the Australian women who served there. This non-fiction book records the oral histories of some thirty-five women who served in Vietnam as journalists, army nurses, typists, consular staff and entertainers. Minefields and Miniskirts records the voices of women who were actually in Vietnam; ordinary women who experienced adventure and romance as well as abuse and rape. The book was first published in 1993 but was re-issued in 2005. This new edition locates the story against the background of the war in Iraq and other contemporary conflicts.
'Based on the true story of Fay Howe, this gentle tale brings to life the hardships of those left at home during wartime. Drawing on fascinating archival material, and interweaving fact with fiction ... Dianne Wolfer and ... Brian Simmonds deftly recreate this period in Australian history from the perspective of a young girl.'
Fremantle Press website, www.fremantlepress.com.au (Sighted 23/02/2009)(...more)
Based on the true story of Fay Howe this picture book, through a blend of fact and fiction, brings to life the hardships of those left at home during wartime. Fay lives alone with her father on bleak, windswept Breaksea Island off the coast of Western Australia, but her life is completely changed by the advent of World War I. Albany is the embarkation point for all the troops of the combined Australian and New Zealand Imperial Forces, and Breaksea Island is their final glimpse of Australia. Faye engages in long distance conversations with the soldiers through letters and postcards and follows their fortunes from Egypt to Gallipoli. The novel is full of evocative illustrations, sepia photographs and news clippings. These archival materials, along with alternating diary entries and newspaper extracts, offer readers a different perspective on this period of Australian history.
Seven teenagers camp in a remote and idyllic location deep in the countryside. But that night, they see the sky filled with military aircraft, and return home to find their houses deserted and the locals detained in the showground. Escaping detection, the teenagers form themselves into a guerilla unit, hoping to prevent the invading Coalition Nations from bringing any more troops in by destroying the only bridge to nearby Cobbler's Bay, where the troop ships are moored.(...more)