Defending Country campaign exposes the truth about Australia’s longest war

Nov 20, 2023
Australian War Memorial

For decades the Australian War Memorial Council denied the need for the full recognition of Australia’s first and longest wars – the Frontier Wars – despite the overwhelming evidence of actions which today would be regarded not only as crimes but also in many cases war crimes.

Now the Defending Country Memorial Project has launched a website and a campaign to rectify that glaring omission. The Defending Country Memorial Project website details the overwhelming evidence that the War Memorial is wrong – evidenced in books, colonial records, official reports and oral histories.

In the 19th century governments and settlers were clear about their intentions – to wage war on Indigenous Australians. Time and time again they used the word war to describe their actions.

But the War Memorial Council would have us believe these were not real wars but events which might best be recorded in a few museums.

Part of the problems are the entrenched views of a Council which does not properly represent the views of Australia’s leading historians nor many, many veterans.

The Project evolved from Dr David Stephens’ Honest History project which has produced a series of significant contributions to understanding Anzackery, the militarisation of Australian history by politicians and others and the many problems of the War Memorial – from the contested rebuilding project through to the cosy club the War Memorial Council has become.

Honest History has also been an invaluable source of information about the books, articles and resources which enable Australians to understand how commemoration has become a political and not a community program.

During the WWI commemorations, for instance, Dr Stephens highlighted the enormous amount of money spent on WWI commemoration compared with that of other allied nations.

The total spending was more than $470 million of taxpayers money.

Indeed, Australia led the world in commemorative spending for World War I with $8889 allocated for each digger killed in the Great War compared to just $109 per British casualty and a mere $2 for each dead German soldier.

During the commemorations Dr Stephens said many people were amazed by the spending spree but were reluctant to criticise it. “Spending is important but commemoration is not the state religion,” he said.

Former army officer, Iraq veteran and author of Anzac’s Long Shadow James Brown was another critic of the spending saying said that in times of tight budgets every dollar spent on commemorating long dead soldiers was a dollar not spent on living soldiers with real issues today.

“We’re spending millions on monuments which catalogue every death in World War I yet until last year no one was tracking the number of returning modern veterans taking their own lives,” Mr Brown said.

At the time a spokesman for then Veterans Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson justified the spending saying unlike the UK and Germany, Australia was a young nation without a history of conflict when war broke out.

…and that is the big lie of Australian history – a lie the Defending Country Project intends to replace with the truth about our longest war – the war against our First Nations people.

The new Defending Country website demolishes this big lie by bringing together in one accessible place both the critical information about Australia’s real history – not the sanitised version pushed by government commemorative programs – but the overwhelming evidence of the significance and extent of the Frontier Wars.

The website has been launched with a significant detailed analysis of how the War Memorial is trying to evade what is a critical priority in commemorating all our country’s wars.

The Defending Country founders are: Dr David Stephens, Pamela Burton, Dr Carolyn Holbrook, Professor Peter Stanley and Noel Turnbull. The Defending Country’s Patrons are:

Professor Megan Davis, Professor Henry Reynolds and Professor Clare Wright OAM.


Pearls & Irritations recommends:

Australian War Memorial needs to own Australian frontier wars

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