This morning I had the honour of attending the official launch of Major General Gordon Maitland’s book ‘The Story of Australia’s Flags which was hosted by the Department of Veterans Affairs in Sydney. It follow on from his previous publication ‘Honours and Awards of the Australian Army. Both are published by Playbill Military Productions and are essential references to anybody with an interest in the customs and traditions of our Australian military forces.
In his dedication to his book Major General Gordon Maitland wrote:
‘Australians formally announce themselves by flying our flag or singing our National Anthem.
‘Sometimes we may do so more informally by flying a flag bearing an image of one of our unique fauna or by singing Waltzing Matilda.
‘Another favourite song is: ‘We are one, but we are many, and from all the lands on Earth we come, we share a dream and sing with one voice – I am, you are, we are Australian’. It was written by Bruce Woodley and Dobe Newton in 1987 and is owned by Telstra. I am biased and would prefer ‘flag’ to ‘dream’.
‘No doubt my upbringing contributed to my bias for I am of that generation which, at school, recited:
I honour my God; I serve my King; I salute my flag.
‘Like many of our wonderful ways it has been lost by progress [?] (more…)
This is a must read for anybody interested in the international circumstances that led to the War in the Pacific in 1941. Following is the speech by the Governor of Westerns Australia, His Excellency Malcolm McClusker AC CVO QC, when he launched the book at Curtin University:
The first Wednesday of September each year is Battle for Australia Day. It commemorates all of the battles, great and small, fought against Japan by the United States and Australia, to repel Japanese aggression.
Bob Wurth’s book, the Battle for Australia, is a gripping account of that perilous time in Australia’s history. As our Governor-General of Australia wrote in the Foreword, it fills an important gap in our knowledge of that critical period for, 70 years after the bombing of Darwin and the invasion of New Guinea, we are still learning about what happened and just how beleaguered Australia really was – to an extent which was certainly not fully disclosed at the time, for fear of causing panic.
The sub-title to the book, “A nation and its leader under siege”, is very apt; for this book is not only a fascinating account of the military history of the war in the Pacific, when Australia truly was “under siege”; but it is also an insightful political biography of Australia’s war time Prime Minister John Curtin. He too, was “under siege”, as Bob Wurth makes clear.
The John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library is therefore a very fitting venue for the launch of this book, which not only points out Curtin’s achievements, but also his frailties, flaws and failings. (more…)
Papua New Guinea is the custodian of Australia’s Pacific War history. A place where our wartime relics have rusted in peace in remote jungle clad mountains for the past 70 years. The names of hitherto unknown places are emblazoned on Army, Navy and RAAF Battle Honours every Anzac Day – Coral Sea, Milne Bay, Kokoda, Buna, Gona, Sanananda, Finschaffen, Lae, Wau, Shaggy Ridge, Bougainville and Wewak.
The Kokoda Trail is one of many jungles shrines littered with relics of desperate battles fought between Australian and Japanese soldiers in late 1942. It lay dormant in the minds of Australians for five decades after the war until Paul Keating became the first Australian Prime Minister to visit the village that bears its name.
Government interest in the preservation of the Kokoda Trail receded for another decade until Prime Ministers’ John Howard and Sir Michael Somare opened a significant memorial at the village of Isurava on the 60th anniversary of the campaign. The awareness of these two ceremonial occasions led to increasing numbers of Australians wanting to walk in the footsteps of the brave.
However it wasn’t until a public outcry over the threat to mine a large part of the trail that the Australian Government finally took more than a token interest in the area. The public were united in their opposition to the possible destruction of such an iconic part of our military heritage.
Unfortunately the Howard Government miscalculated and allocated responsibility for the preservation of the Kokoda Trail to the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA). Most probably because the Heritage Division was responsible for the List of Overseas Places of Historic Significance to Australia which was established under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). The status of ‘Heritage’ has since been dropped from what is now the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPC). ‘Arts’ has since been added to the Minister’s responsibilities but does not show up in the current acronym. (more…)