The Anzac myth: Western Australian identity, patriotism and perspectives of the Great War

Deborah Gare

Pub Talk

Thursdays at the Fremantle Hotel, corner Cliff & High Streets
Presentations start 6.30pm sharp.

2 May 2002


Australians have been showered with popular and academic interpretations of Anzac since the first fateful landing of soldiers at Gallipoli in April 1915. It was believed that in the tradition of thousands of years Australians were proving their right to stand alongside other mature nations by spilling their blood on foreign soil. To many - then and since - Gallipoli saw the birth of the Australian nation.

That Gallipoli was the birth of the Australian nation is a myth like many others to do with Anzac which needs exploding. In truth, the Australian nationalism which developed in the west during the Great War was merely a brief hiatus in Western Australian separatism that was unable to withstand the challenge of secessionism and Depression. Popular music printed in Perth at the time reflects an enduring Western Australian identity and patriotism which survived the conflict at home and abroad. Within three years of the war's end the state parliament condemned the federation for the state's financial woes, and within six years the Commonwealth likened Western Australian sentiment to that of the southern states of America just prior to the Civil War. In 1926 the WA Secession League had been formed, and in 1933 Western Australians voted overwhelmingly in favour of separation from the federation. Could the Great War have seen the birth of the Australian nation, when a decade later a third of the continent was seeking independence?

This paper will examine western perspectives of the Great War, and question its role in fortifying the young Australian nation.

Dr Deborah Gare is a research associate and historian in the Australian Studies Centre. She is the author of Lady Onslow's Legacy: A History of the Home of Peace and the Brightwater Care Group (BCG, 2001) and co-editor with Geoffrey Bolton, Stuart Macintyre and Tom Stannage of the book The Blainey View and Views of Blainey: Essays on the life and work of Geoffrey Blainey (Melbourne University Press, in press). She is currently writing the biography of Sir Charles Court with David Black.

Pub Talk | 2002

New: 17 April, 2002 | Now: 7 May, 2015