Claims Anzac interest waning

War Memorial boss Brendan Nelson rejects claim public interest in commemorative events is waning, 23 March 2015

Director of the Australian War Memorial Brendan Nelson has flatly rejected claims that Australia was in danger of suffering from commemoration fatigue.

Far from being fed up with celebrating the sacrifices of our troops around the globe Dr Nelson believes Australians are more interested than ever in stories from the front.

Some academics warned in the lead-up to the centenary of the 1915 Gallipoli campaign that the story was in danger of suffering from over exposure.

Dr Nelson told News Corp Australia that in his experience — as the nation’s key custodian of commemoration — interest was actually growing.

Eminent Australian National University historian Joan Beaumont said there were too many commemorative events and that people were switching off.

“Some of us have been predicting what you might call ‘commemoration fatigue’, meaning that there simply too many commemorative activities going on and people will just switch off,” she said.

“The relatively low ratings of this new Channel 9 series on Gallipoli may indicate that people have just heard the story so many times that they have become bored with it.”

Dr Nelson said ratings for the “Gallipoli” TV series did not reflect the national mood at all.

He said he had spent the best part of the last 20 years trying to make judgments about public opinion.

“It [Gallipoli] was fairly graphic and I think lot of Australians have difficulty in prime time television watching something that is so confronting,” Dr Nelson said.

“I am very confident that come Anzac Day people will be voting with their feet and not their remote controls.”

Dr Nelson said it was important that people examined the Gallipoli campaign and other WW1 campaigns in greater detail than just the initial landings at Anzac Cove on April 25, 1915

“It’s extraordinarily important that Australians look beyond headlines and broad brushstrokes and that they appreciate that behind the 46,000 Australians who died in France and Belgium were real people with real lives.”

Professor Beaumont also said there was emerging evidence that some immigrant groups, especially those from war ravaged countries, had difficulty embracing the Anzac legend.

“The Anzac legend has sometimes been seen as the last hurrah of the white Australian male. If you have a foundational national narrative that is essentially centred on white men, how then does the rest of the population relate to it?”

“One possibility is to re-imagine Anzac Day as a time where we remember loss in war because so many Australians have come from countries that are torn apart by war,” Professor Beaumont said.