Do you have a right to be on Team Anzac?

It’s quite possible that my first exposure to Australian war history was through music. As a child, when I was bundled into the car for family road trips, there was one sure companion: my Dad’s mix cassette tape collection, with liberal sprinklings of Eric Bogle’s 1971 song And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda, a story told in the voice of a wounded Gallipoli veteran. Whenever I read something about Anzac Day parades, like last month’s article in the Adelaide Advertiser about Indian-Australians seeking permission to march next year, I can’t help but remember Bogle’s concluding verses:

And so now every April, I sit on me porch,

And I watch the parades pass before me.

And I see my old comrades, how proudly they march,

Reviving old dreams of past glories.

And the old men march slowly, old bones stiff and sore,

They’re tired old heroes from a forgotten war.

And the young people ask, ‘What are they marching for?’

And I ask myself the same question.

But the band plays Waltzing Matilda, and the old men still answer the call,

But as year follows year, more old men disappear.

Someday no one will march there at all.

“Someday no one will march there at all.” Bogle wrote in the context of the Vietnam anti-war movement and well before the resurgence of interest in Anzac of the 1980s and after. I don’t think he could have imagined the transformation of Anzac Day parades we’ve seen since, when the question of young people and others hasn’t been “What are they marching for?” but “Can we march too?”

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Guns for boys, gender for girls in the First World War classroom

One thing I’m intrigued to watch during the First World War and Anzac centenaries is how the war is taught in schools. Especially in the context of new curricula in England and Australia, will the 2014-2018 centenary invigorate or enervate (or distort?) learning about the conflict? In May, Ann-Marie Einhaus and Catriona Pennell released their excellent report The First World War in the Classroom, which considers this and other questions in the context of England. As a researcher keen on public engagement, I was particularly interested in Einhaus and Pennell’s observation that while many resources incorporating the latest academic research are now freely available, a challenge for time-pressed teachers is to find their way amongst them: “Participants in our focus groups voiced concerns about the sheer range and wealth of sources as overwhelming”.[1] I was therefore eager to read the latest addition to The Guardian’s “How to teach…” series, How to teach… the first world war by Alex Ogg.

Ogg’s piece is a handy roundup of both traditional and newer literary and historical resources, mostly British, for teaching the First World War. But it also contains something of a gendered sting.

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