The Canberra Times has covered responses to the Australian War Memorial’s announced intention to recognise the colonial Frontier Wars, carrying a letter from Dr Sue Wareham, president of Medical Association for Prevention of War, the organisation behind the Reclaim Remembrance campaign:
Historian Henry Reynolds has set out the strong case for both recognition and commemoration of the Frontier Wars at the AWM (“Surprising change of direction”, CT, 8 Oct). The Memorial’s announcement of “much broader, much deeper depiction and presentation of the violence committed against Aboriginal people” represents very welcome progress.
However, much is unclear. The announcement was made in response to questioning at an unrelated AWM event. We do not yet know any details about what is planned. AWM Board Chair Dr Brendan Nelson reiterated at the event that “all of this work that is being undertaken here [the redevelopment] is entirely for the young generation of veterans that our nation has produced over the last 20 years”. With no hint of irony, AWM Director Matt Anderson also stated that these veterans “have waited long enough”. How Australia’s foundational wars of colonisation which began over 200 years ago would fit within space entirely focussed on wars of the last two decades is not explained.
Reynolds is correct that the public commitment that has been made by the Memorial would be hard to reverse. One of the tasks now is to ensure that whatever the AWM does to fulfil its commitment fully reflects the ongoing significance of the Frontier Wars for Australia and Australians. This will mean not only due recognition, but also due commemoration for the tens of thousands of people who died during the only wars fought on Australian soil. That cannot be just an add-on to plans devised for other purposes.