Jul 9, 2014

Peter Underwood’s legacy: challenging the Anzac myth

Tasmania's governor, who has just died, was outspoken in calling for wars not to be glorified. He preferred a genuine focus on how to bring about peace. Here is one of his most controversial speeches, which is well worth reading.

Tasmanian governor Peter Underwood died on Monday night. He has been remembered in his home state as a strong advocate of peace and social justice. To mark the passing of Underwood, here is an extract from a speech he gave on Anzac Day this year. The speech was criticised in some quarters for deviating from the script on the Anzac myth. Underwood will not be here to set out his case at the centenary of Anzac Day next year, so we’re republishing this extract. We think it’s well worth reading and remembering.

On this Anzac Day, the centennial anniversary of the commencement of World War I, how do we commemorate — that is, call to remembrance — that terrible event and all the subsequent violent conflicts in which Australia has been involved over the last 100 years — mankind’s greatest century of violence? Much has been, and will be, said about the Anzac spirit, but I venture to repeat the caution that I have sounded before on this day, against glorifying war with descriptions of the mythical tall, lean, bronzed and laconic Anzac, enthusiastically and unflinchingly carrying the torch of freedom in the face of murderous enemy fire, or as Lieutenant Colonel Burke wrote, the “bold, laughing soldiers” who “fought as they lived — bravely, openly, independently, and without fear.”

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8 thoughts on “Peter Underwood’s legacy: challenging the Anzac myth

  1. Dennis Bauer

    Amongst the billions of humans,every now and then there is a beacon, a light that illuminates a rare person’s thoughts, for justice, compassion, empathy, vision, love of humanity,love of consciousness but alas, not understood it becomes extinguished,the seeds of love and communication hoed out of the forest of aeons to make way for more senseless seemingly profitable crops.

  2. paddy

    Beautifully put Dennis.

  3. Robert Brown

    I might have to print this out and keep it in my pocket!

    Or maybe get a t-shirt printed…

  4. burninglog


    Wot he said.

  5. zut alors

    The voice of sanity, a welcome relief from the endless Anzac jingoism.

  6. Dan B

    A beacon, a light? How about someone chasing a legacy voicing an impossible proposal. I would be most interested in how Mr. Underwood believed this world could have a year of peace. Did he mean a year in which Australians didn’t commit to support its allies against an ever-growing number of international tyrants? Did he mean a year in which everyone just shook hands and got along? No. Mr. Underwood was simply chasing ghosts, and trying to make himself look like a “beacon of light”, a champion for peace. FAIL.
    We do not live in a world where there can be global peace – get used to it. But we do have a fantastic military that VOLUNTARILY ventures into harms way to protect peoples living in hellish conditions. Those are the people we must revere, and ANZAC Day is an excellent forum to do so.
    Today’s military personnel conduct themselves in accordance with our original ANZACs. And ANZAC Day must continue to be a day of remembrance for those who gave their all for the free-world. Of course there will be people who speak against it. But us ANZACs say “you’re welcome”. For it is the sacrifices of our military personnel that allows you to have your own opinion on anything. It’s called freedom..

  7. Itsarort

    I’m sorry Dan B but our soldiers today are in it for the money, whether you like it or not. And the jingoism of what has become ANZAC Day,…, is a bloody disgrace!

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