SUBJECTS: ANZAC Day; National History Curriculum
Journalist: Christopher Pyne, according to the ‘tiser, is concerned about the way Gallipoli is being taught in our schools. Now, the headline is: “Restore ANZAC respect – Liberals in power will rewrite black armband view of Australian history”. Christopher Pyne is a South Australian Liberal MP, but he’s also the Opposition Education Shadow Minister. He joins us now. Good morning, Christopher Pyne
Pyne: Good morning, David.
Journalist: What’s wrong with the way ANZAC day is being taught in our schools?
Pyne: Well in the national curriculum, in the history subject, ANZAC day is listed alongside many other days as part of the curriculum – as part of its teaching. So ANZAC day is locked in with NAIDOC week, reconciliation day, harmony day and so on. Now, nothing to take away from those other important days, but there’s a public holiday for ANZAC day, because ANZAC day is very central to our understanding of our Australian character and our Australian history, and I think it downplays ANZAC day for it not to be a standalone part of the history curriculum – to be taught about Australia’s culture and what we’ve done in the past.
Journalist: But specifically what are we missing out on?
Pyne: Well, I think ANZAC day speaks very much about the kind of country we are today and where we’ve come from. It was the birth of a nation – the birth of a nation in the First World War. Before that time…
Journalist: You think that the Australian nation was born when we stormed Gallipoli?
Pyne: I have absolutely no doubt that the experiences of the First World War, as exemplified by the campaign in Gallipoli, bound the Australian nation together like no other event in the first fifteen years of federation.
Journalist: It divided the nation – what about the great debates over conscription? It was an incredibly divisive time, Christopher Pyne.
Pyne: Well David, the debate about conscription has nothing whatsoever to do with the campaign in Gallipoli.
Journalist: How can you say that the conscription debates had nothing to do with the slaughter which had been going on up until that time? Those conscriptions, that referendum occurred in 16, and again in 1917. Of course they were referring back to what happened in the previous twelve months, eighteen months, two years.
Pyne: Well, I think you’ve massively expanded the debate. I mean yea, the conscription debates are a fascinating part of Australian History, but…
Journalist: You said it was unifying. I’m saying it was a divisive time.
Pyne: I think the campaign in ANZAC, the which was the first time Australians of all the colonies had banded together, fifteen years after federation, for a national and international conflagration, forged our national spirit like no other historic moment up until that time.
Journalist: But you want to leave out the nasty bits?
Pyne: And the conscription debates are very important as well especially…
Journalist: Don’t mention the conscription debates! You want us all to understand ANZAC and part of our culture, except for the divisive bits.
Pyne: The war in Gallipoli actually has no bearing at all on the conscription debates of the next following two years. It’s a fascinating part of our history, there’s no doubt about it, but everybody who understands Australian history realises that the ANZAC spirit has informed our Australian culture and our character ever since that time, and I don’t think that lining it up with NAIDOC week, reconciliation day, harmony day and so on gives it the central focus that it deserves in our curriculum.
Journalist: But if people don’t get the cultural impact of it on our culture, why are so many young people now making the journey to ANZAC cove, and why do they have to have… are considering a ballot for people. It seems that there is more interest in it than ever.
Pyne: I think it’s terrific that there’s so much interest in ANZAC day. What I’m saying is that the national curriculum – the history curriculum – downplays that. That doesn’t reflect the fact that young people, and in fact people of all ages, are flocking to ANZAC day ceremonies, and what that might speak to is how the Australian public are yearning for a view of our history which is not the black armband view of our history, where we hang our heads in shame every second day, but in fact where we celebrate our national history like all countries should. All the good bits, and the bad bits. They’re all part of our history.
Journalist: Chris Pyne, thanks for having a talk with us this morning.
Pyne: It’s a great pleasure.