Monday, March 26, 2012

The Anzac Day centenary study: what you won't read in the Murdoch papers

On pages 48-49 of the government report How Australia may commemorate the Anzac Centenary, a listing of the findings of the "government" study (which was not actually performed by the government but by independent market research group Colmar Brunton) that the Murdoch press has reported on with such sensationalism can be found. As I've seen many online commentors falsely claim that the $370,000 spent on this study was only spent in order to address some imagined conflict between multiculturalism and the very idea of Anzac Day itself, here are some of the facts about this study that News Limited did not mention:
  • The research was undertaken in part not because of concern that Anzac Day involvement was a problem, but that a possible LACK of involvement was a problem, and how this might be addressed:
    The research outlines community perceptions and expectations in relation to invigorating the memories of the past and identifying the mechanisms that will take them into the future

  • Anzac Day, and commemoration of military service was seen as very important by the focus group members:
    It is almost universally recognised that commemoration of our military history is important

    News Limited selectively decided to focus on a minor part of the report that outlined possible problems, while failing utterly to mention the strong support that the study gave for commemoration of military history in general, and of Anzac Day in particular

  • News Limited spent a lot of time reporting on alleged suggestions that some people didn't like the idea of being part of Anzac Day, but failed to report on those people who DID very much want to be included in Anzac Day but didn't feel that they were, namely Indigenous Australians:
    Many Indigenous Australians view Anzac Day as 'a party that we have not been invited to attend'. Indigenous service and the service of Australians in Vietnam were identified as two important areas for redressing the perceived lesser commemorative honour that the past has provided those groups

  • Finally - and ONLY after these positive and important messages from the study in question are presented, do we get concerns about "the potential for both unity and division in commmemorating our military history in a modern multicultural Australia". This dual consideration of cultural concerns is a far cry from the one-sided slant presented in the Murdoch press that "multiculturalism" is somehow an obstacle to the very existence of Anzac Day. In particular, it raises the concern about how celebrating military action in foreign countries may look to people whose cultural heritage includes that country. This is NOT a statement that such people object to any Anzac Day commemorations, only that we don't actually know how they feel. This is called "risk assessment", and is a perfectly logical thing to do in any area of endeavour

After going through the "How Australia may commemorate the Anzac centenary report", the Executive Summary of the Colmar Brunton study reported on by News Limited is included as Appendix 7. It will be interesting to see how the News Limited quotations match up with what's actually in there.

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