Commission wants 'lasting legacy' for Anzac centenary

By Sabra Lane

Updated Mon Mar 28, 2011 5:32pm AEDT
Lest We Forget

The Federal Government is about to consider how Australia should mark the 100th anniversary of Anzac Day.

A commission set up to advise the Government has recommended travelling exhibitions and a special service at Gallipoli in 2015.

It also suggested a lasting legacy, with the establishment of a permanent centre to study the causes of conflict and the mistakes of the past.

More than 600 submissions were sent in, with 1,500 ideas on how the centenary of World War I and Anzac Day should be marked.

Former prime ministers Bob Hawke and Malcolm Fraser and the national RSL chief were part of the commission.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard was given the commission's report today.

"The commission has said to us that Australia and its character, the character of its people have been shaped by war, shaped by loss and sacrifice, by courage and pride and by confidence in who we are, and we want this series of events to capture that essence that the commission has outlined for us," she said.

Retired peacekeeper and committee member, Matina Jewell, says the commission also recommended that future commemorations mark more recent wars and conflicts as well as the events of 100 years ago.

"It is hoped the commemoration period will help Australians of all descents identify with who we are as a nation and allow us to build on this strong foundation as we move forward into the future," she said.

Other ideas include the restaging of the first major convoy of Australian and New Zealand troops from Albany in Western Australia and the rebuilding of an interpretive centre there with online access for people everywhere.

The commission says there should be an extensive refurbishment program to fix and restore crumbling memorials dotted around Australia.

Mr Fraser says these war memorials should be protected.

"In many country towns there are war memorials and some of those memorials show that entire families lost their lives in the first war, some of the memorials are very small," he said.

"I know a memorial near my old home in western Victoria there used to be some sort of township there. There is the war memorial now and a little mechanics hall which is used for meetings occasionally.

"I think a church is still open and that is all that is left of the town, but the war memorial is there. It shouldn't be neglected. It should be protected and preserved and that is replicated all over Australia."

Mr Fraser also says a lasting legacy should be established called "the Anzac Centre of peace, conflict and war" and should be based in Canberra.

"How do we learn out of 100 years of conflict and war [and] peacekeeping to try and create a better world?" he said.

"And so instead of just pulling the blind down as it were at the end of the commemorative period, there is something going forward which will involve academic research, it will involve teaching, it will be accessible to the public and that will be something forward-looking.

"You've got something designed to learn from the experience, mistakes sometimes of the past 100 years.

"We tend to forget that some of the conflicts Australia has been involved in have been highly contentious - the Vietnam War started with agreement and ended with the most terrible division.

"The Iraq war, the demonstrations against that before the war began. We have not always gone into these events as a totally united nation. We haven't and as a nation we've changed."

Mr Fraser says events marking peace and conflict must be all-embracing.

"I am told there are Vietnamese Australians fighting with our Army in Afghanistan," he said.

"The multicultural Australia, the diversity of Australia is having an impact on who we are, what we are and this is all part of the commemoration.

"The worst thing that could happen would be if we concentrated on white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant Irish. We are not that sort of Australia any more."

The Government will respond to the recommendations later this year.

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