ANZAC and Remembrance Days

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The kids are colouring in their Murri-style Rising Sun and Memorial Plaque

We offer “an” Indigenous perspective, not “the” Indigenous perspective. 

There are multiple ways of conceptualising ANZAC Day from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective. ANZAC Day and Remembrance Days are very important parts of Australian culture and national identity. These two days, along with World War 1 and 2, feature heavily in the Australian Curriculum. When understanding ANZAC Day from an Indigenous perspective, we like to consider two possible conceptions of War and Sacrifice.

  1. The War of Colonisation: Since 1788, wars have taken place across the continent we now know of as Australia, though they were often reported as skirmishes or dispersals. Aboriginal nations did not cede sovereignty to the invaders. Warriors all over the continent fought to defend themselves, their families, and their right to live their lives. There is no formal recognition of the sacrifices of these “soldiers”, or of the tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children who perished during the colonisation wars. If, as a nation we recognise the contribution of uniformed soldiers, justifiably we should recognise the contribution and sacrifices of all.
  2. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People were diggers too: Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and men fought beside other Australians in overseas conflicts. They chose to serve the nation. Despite their sacrifices, many were actively prevented from ANZAC commemorations. Many were refused the services and benefits that other returned soldiers were given, including pensions, housing support, medical support. In some communities, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander returned soldiers were explicitly refused the opportunity to participate in ANZAC commemoration. Thus the contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander diggers has not yet been fully recognised. Nor have reparations been made for the discrimination that they faced when they returned home. As communities, we must rectify the discrimination and create an ANZAC commemoration that recognises all.

The Critical Classroom has created an original publication to use in the classroom that you might find useful for commemorating ANZAC and Remembrance Days, as well as other days in your school and community year that recognise the sacrifice of warriors who died defending their countries. Visit our shop for more details.

Note: As always, we stress that we are presenting AN Aboriginal perspective, not THE Aboriginal perspective. Teachers will find that as they live and work within their communities, different ways of seeing will become apparent. We encourage teachers to use our work as a stepping stone to a better understanding. When teachers are in their schools, they should defer to the community they are working in.