The Anzac Legend: Great Debates
Great Debates is a series designed for teachers to encourage discussion on topics from military history. This debate focuses on the variety of attitudes Australians have had toward the Anzac legend over the past century.
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Charles Bean (negative case)
'What these men did nothing can alter now. The good and the bad, the greatness and smallness of their story will stand. Whatever of glory it contains nothing now can lessen. It rises, as it will always rise, above the mists of ages, a monument to great-hearted men; and, for their nation, a possession for ever'
Official history, Volume VI, Chapter XXII, page 1096
Copyright Australian War Memorial
Charles Bean was Australia's first official war correspondent. He landed on Gallipoli a few hours after the first landing on 25 April 1915 and remained there until the Anzac troops withdrew. Bean sent regular reports back to Australia from Gallipoli and, later, from the Western Front. Bean often reported from close to the
action and was mentioned in dispatches for his bravery under fire during an Australian attack on the Gallipoli peninsula.
Bean's report of the landing at Gallipoli was delayed by the British authorities and was not published in Australia until a week after one written by the English correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett. Both Bean and Ashmead-Bartlett praised the skill and bravery of the Anzacs. Their reports were the first news from the battlefield to reach Australia, and many men on the home front responded by volunteering to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force.
Bean greatly admired the Australian troops and after the war he recommended that a national war memorial be created to commemorate those who had been killed. The government accepted this recommendation, and also appointed him to write the official history of the First World War.
To Australia and New Zealand the cost of the Landing was 8,000 men, of whom at least 2,300 were killed. They were men whom their countries could ill afford to lose. But with their lives they purchased a tradition beyond all human power to appraise, and set for all time the standard of conduct for the Australian and New Zealand soldier.
First World War Official Histories, Volume I – The Story of ANZAC from the outbreak of war to the end of the first phase of the Gallipoli Campaign, May 4, 1915, Chapter XXVI, 11th edition, 1941, page 605
Copyright Australian War Memorial
What had happened on shore only gradually became known. But at 7 o'clock men on the transports, scanning the horizon through whatever glasses were available, saw along the crest of the hills ahead a line of men standing talking and digging, in those easy carefree poses by which Australians came constantly to be recognised on fifty later battlefields of the First World War. A weight of anxiety was lifted from the onlookers. It was clear that, however difficult this coast, for the moment at any rate the Australians had made good their landing.
C. E. W. Bean, Anzac to Amiens, Penguin Books, Melbourne, 2014, pages 84–85
… For nearly four weeks [Simpson] came up and down that valley – through the hottest shrapnel, through the aimed bullets of snipers and the un-aimed bullets which came over the ridges. When shells were so hot that many others thought it wiser to duck for cover as they went, the man with the donkey calmly went his way … The commander of this section of our line told me that the man with the donkey had been worth a hundred men to him.
C. E. W. Bean, Australian Press Representative, Kalgoorlie Miner, 20 July 1915, page 7
I desire to read a telegram which has been received from His Majesty the King. It is dated Buckingham Palace, 29th April, 1915, and is as follows:
I heartily congratulate you upon the splendid conduct and bravery displayed by the Australian troops in the operations at the Dardanelles, who have indeed proved themselves worthy sons of the Empire.
Prime Minister Fisher, House of Representatives Hansard, 30 April 1915
Alice Ross-King (negative case)
'Same old story. I simply wept this a.m. when they [would] not let me go on duty. All the same I am pretty sick …'
Extract from diary of Alice Ross-King, 6 June 1915
Alice Ross-King enlisted as a nurse in the Australian Army Nursing Service in November 1914, and just weeks later she sailed for Egypt with the Australian Imperial Force. She helped to set up the 1st Australian General Hospital in Cairo, before going to Suez, where a clearing hospital for casualties from Gallipoli was established. When Anzacs injured at the landing of 25 April 1915 started to arrive at the hospital, Ross- King noted in her diary 'The wounds are terrible. The boys are such bricks about it too … I went to bed heartbroken.'
After the Gallipoli campaign, Sister Ross-King was sent to France. At the end of July 1916, Ross-King learned that the soldier she had planned to marry had been killed in action. Despite her grieving, she continued to serve on the Western Front until the end of the war. She was awarded the Military Medal for her 'great coolness and devotion to duty' during the bombing of an Australian Casualty Clearing Station on 22 July 1917, one of only seven Australian nurses to receive this award during the First World War.
Went to see Frank in the morning & again in the afternoon … It seems that the Turks have a great respect for the Australians. Where [Frank] was wounded – They had been in the trenches for some days … As soon as the Turks got a gap into the trenches after the explosion they came on in hundreds – Our boys were surprised at first and a few Turks got into the trenches, but soon our fellows went for them and as fast as they jumped up they 'pinked' them then they bayoneted the ones who had entered the trench. Then our boys jumped up & over into the Turks trench & started killing them in there. Our losses were 14. The Turks must have lost hundreds. The Australians are very highly esteemed there. Frank said that the Colonel of an English regiment always asks for about 10 of our men to mix in with his Tommies because the Tommies will go anywhere with the [Australians] …
Extract from diary of Alice Ross-King, 17–18 June 1915
I shall not cry Return! Return!
Nor weep my years away;
But just as long as sunsets burn,
And dawns make no delay
I shall be lonesome – I shall miss
Your hand, your voice, your smile, your kiss.
Not often shall I speak your name,
For what would strangers care,
That once a sudden tempest came
And swept my gardens bare,
And then you passed, and in your place
Stood Silence with her lifted face.
Not always shall this parting be,
For though I travel slow
I, too, may claim eternity
And find the way you go;
And so I do my task & wait
The opening of the outer gate.
'I shall not cry return' by Ellen Gates, from the diary of Alice Ross King, 6 September 1916
John Howard (negative case)
'… they forged a legend whose grip on us grows tighter with each passing year'
John Howard was Australia's Prime Minister from March 1996 to December 2007, and he prioritised national security throughout these years. His government deployed many members of the Defence Force to serve in an Australian led international peacekeeping force in East Timor in 1999. In the years following the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001, Howard committed Australian troops to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
When he attended the Anzac Day services at Gallipoli in 2000, Prime Minister Howard noted the continuing importance of the Anzacs to Australia with the words 'Today's generations thank you for making this a free society. We thank you for the way of life that we all enjoy'. From Gallipoli he travelled to the Somme, where both his father and grandfather had served as Anzacs on the Western Front. Howard visited Anzac Cove again in 2005 for the 90th anniversary of the Anzac landings and has made further official and private pilgrimages to the Western Front.
Ninety years ago, as dawn began to break, the first sons of a young nation assailed these shores. These young Australians, with their New Zealand comrades, had come to do their bit in a maelstrom not of their making.
Over eight impossible months, they forged a legend whose grip on us grows tighter with each passing year. In the hills, ridges and gullies above us the Anzacs fought, died, dug in and hung on. Here they won a compelling place in the Australian story. Today we remember the 50,000 Australians who served in the Gallipoli campaign. And the more than 26,000 who fell or were wounded here …
Extract from speech by Prime Minister John Howard at Dawn Service, Gallipoli, 25 April 2005 parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=(Id:media/pressrel/cbuf6);rec=0
The last of the Anzacs, Alec Campbell, died peacefully in Hobart last night. He was 103 … Prime Minister John Howard described Mr Campbell as the last living link to that group of Australians that established the Anzac legend. 'It is a story of great valour under fire, unity of purpose and a willingness to fight against the odds that has helped to define what it means to be an Australian.'
'Last Anzac is Dead', Sydney Morning Herald, 17 May 2002
In 1984, Australia asked Turkey if the cove on the Gallipoli peninsula could be renamed Anzac Cove in memory of the Australian and New Zealand troops who died there in 1915 during the Gallipoli Campaign of World War One. The Turkish Government agreed to change the cove's name from Ari Burnu and also built a large monument to all those who died in the campaign. In return, the Australian and New Zealand governments agreed to build monuments in Canberra and Wellington to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who served as a divisional commander at Gallipoli and went on to become the first president of modern Turkey.
New Zealand Ministry of Culture and Heritage website
Ben Roberts-Smith (negative case)
'We are Australians.
We are born of the Anzacs.'
Ben Roberts-Smith joined the Australian Regular Army in 1996 when he was 18. He is the fourth generation in his family to be a soldier, with members of his family having served in every Australian conflict since the Boer War. Roberts-Smith reflects that 'From the day I read my first book about Gallipoli, I always wanted to be a soldier'. Roberts-Smith has served in many parts of the world, including East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq. He was awarded the Medal for Gallantry in 2006, the Victoria Cross (Australia's highest military honour) in 2011 and a Commendation for Distinguished Service in 2014.
Since leaving the full-time army in 2013 Roberts-Smith has continued to serve as a member of the Australian Army Reserve. As a civilian, he has publicly supported organisations that care for veterans, such as Wandering Warriors and Legacy. In addition to a career in business, he has also taken on community roles such as chairing the National Australia Day Council and serving on the Prime Ministerial Advisory Council on Veterans' Mental Health.
Whilst the Anzac spirit may have first risen in troops on the battlefield, it is indeed a life force that resides in all Australians. We saw it shine through the black and desperate days of the bushfires earlier this year when volunteer fire-fighters rallied from all over the country and whole communities mobilised to look out for one another, to do what had to be done to save lives, homes, and livelihoods …
The Anzac spirit, and the values it demonstrates, remain our common bedrock, creed, and source of hope and confidence through difficult and uncertain times, in our world and our communities. Times that would be wholly unrecognisable to our original Anzacs.
This is the core of its meaning to me. With dawn on the break, here at the Australian War Memorial, Anzac Day 2014, as we commemorate one of our greatest defining events as a people and nation, I ask each of you, all of us, to ponder and embrace your own special sense of the Anzac spirit.
We are Australians. We are born of the Anzacs. We are the custodians and stewards of their spirit, now and into our future. We must take good care of it.
Extract from Dawn Service address by Ben Roberts-Smith, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 25 April 2014
As he approached the structure, Corporal Roberts-Smith identified an insurgent grenadier in the throes of engaging his patrol. Corporal Roberts-Smith instinctively engaged the insurgent at point-blank range
resulting in the death of the insurgent. With the members of his patrol still pinned down by the three enemy machine gun positions, he exposed his own position in order to draw fire away from his patrol, which enabled them to bring fire to bear against the enemy. His actions enabled his Patrol Commander to throw a grenade and silence one of the machine guns. Seizing the advantage, and demonstrating extreme devotion to duty and the most conspicuous gallantry, Corporal Roberts-Smith, with a total disregard for his own safety, stormed the enemy position killing the two remaining machine gunners.
Extract from citation for Victoria Cross for Australia awarded to Ben Roberts-Smith
War has played an undeniable role in shaping Australia. That today we live in a peaceful society is due in no small part to our experience and understanding both of war and of its consequences. Our military history provides us a valuable insight into how we have developed as a nation into the 21st century.
The term 'Anzac' is instantly recognisable in Australia and has come to mean far more than just a military acronym. The Anzac spirit encompasses values that every Australian holds dear and aspires to emulate in their own life: courage, bravery, sacrifice, mateship, loyalty, selflessness and resilience. This spirit has given Australians an ideal to strive for and a history to be proud of, even though it was born out of war, suffering and loss.
How Australia may commemorate the Anzac Centenary, The National Commission on the Commemoration of the Anzac Centenary, March 2011
Keith Murdoch (affirmative case)
'It is undoubtedly one of the most terrible chapters in our history.'
Keith Murdoch was a journalist working for the Sun newspaper in Melbourne when the First World War began. Soon afterwards, he was narrowly beaten by Charles Bean in a ballot to select an Australian Official War Correspondent. Nonetheless, Murdoch managed to travel to Gallipoli for four days in 1915 and assess the campaign. He was concerned by what he learned, identifying a lack of suitable resources and failures of British command.
After leaving, he wrote an 8000-word letter to Prime Minister Fisher, describing the 'continuous and ghastly bungling' of the campaign. Murdoch travelled on to London and a short time later the letter was also shared with members of the British Government. The letter is believed to have influenced the decision to recall General Hamilton and, ultimately, to evacuate troops from Gallipoli.
The letter also earned Murdoch his own critics. Several errors were identified and he was accused of disloyalty by senior members of the Australian and British military. Murdoch worked in London for the remainder of the war. He was well connected with various politicians, and continued to influence decision- makers throughout the war years.
… I now write of the Dardanelles expedition … It is undoubtedly one of the most terrible chapters in our history …
Some of the finest forces on the peninsula were used in this bloody battle [on August 21] … They and other troops were dashed against the Turkish lines, and broken. They never had a chance of holding their positions when for one brief hour they pierced the Turks' first line; and the slaughter of fine youths was appalling ...
to fling them without the element of surprise, against such trenches as the Turks make, was murder ...
… for the general staff, and I fear Hamilton, officers and men have nothing but contempt. They express it fearlessly … What I want to say to you now very seriously is that the continuous and ghastly bungling over the Dardanelles enterprise was to be expected from such a General Staff as the British Army possesses, so far as I have seen it.
Extract from Gallipoli letter from Keith Arthur Murdoch to Prime Minister Andrew Fisher, 1915
National Library of Australia
It was very steep terrain, and steep gullies, and it was very hard going. We didn't see many Turks at all. It was just a matter of going for your life. But we got all mixed up. There was the 5th Battalion mixed up with the 6th, and the 8th – all over the place! The higher up we went the worse it got! We had to pull
ourselves up in the virgin scrub, and here they were in trees and God knows what. They had a sitting shot at us. Then we started to get heavy fire and the casualties were high, very high.
Private Frank Parker, 5th Battalion, AIF, 25 April 1915
Harvey Broadbent, Gallipoli, The Fatal Shore, Penguin, Melbourne, page 69
Mary Gilmore (affirmative case)
'He died a hero's death, They said,
When they came to tell me
My boy was dead'
National Library of Australia
Prior to the First World War, Mary Gilmore was active in Australia's political and literary circles. She was committed to social equality and the union movement, and regularly contributed articles and poems to The Bulletin and The Australian Worker.
Horrified by the carnage of war, much of Gilmore's work during and after the war focused on the human cost of the conflict. She was a vocal advocate for war widows in addition to returned soldiers and their families, and donated the earnings from her 1918 poetry collection The Passionate Heart to blinded soldiers.
For many years after the war Gilmore continued to write letters and articles lobbying for better pensions and treatment for veterans and their families.
Mary Gilmore's fame and poetic achievements grew throughout her life, increasing her capacity to promote the causes she believed in.
Out in the dust he lies;
Flies in his mouth,
Ants in his eyes …
I stood at the door
Where he went out;
Full-grown man, Ruddy and stout;
I heard the march
Of the trampling feet,
Slow and steady
Come down the street;
The beat of the drum
Was clods on the heart,
For all that the regiment
Looked so smart!
I heard the crackle
Of hasty cheers
Run like the breaking
Of unshed tears,
And just for a moment,
As he went by,
I had sight of his face,
And the flash of his eye.
He died a hero’s death,
When they came to tell me
My boy was dead;
But out in the street
A dead dog lies;
Flies in his mouth,
Ants in his eyes.
Mary Gilmore, 1932 from Selected Poems (ETT imprint, 2018)
Within a space of fifteen feet, I can count fourteen of our boys stone dead … Men and boys who yesterday were full of joy and life, now lying there, cold–cold–dead–their eyes glassy, their face sallow and covered with dust–soulless–gone–somebody's son, somebody's boy–now merely a thing … God, what a sight.
The major is standing next to me and he says 'Well we have won'. Great God–won … then may I never witness defeat.
Cyril Lawrence, Lone Pine, 7 August 1915
Joan Beaumont, Broken nation: Australians in the Great War, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2013, page 131
Now as to the soldier after the war. We 'hoorayed' him while he was in khaki. He will be the same man out of khaki. What about him then? In khaki he was the same man he had been before; his occupation only had been changed – not the man! The following shows what I mean: two lame men tried to board a tram yesterday. One was in uniform. All hands watched his progress; a woman got up and offered him her seat. No one took any thought for the other man in 'civvies.' Yet they were BOTH returned soldiers!
Mary Gilmore, 'After The War', The Australian Worker, 28 November 1918, page 9
Paul Keating (affirmative case)
'… the Great War was a mad, brutal, awful struggle, distinguished more often than not by military and political incompetence'
Paul Keating was Australia's Prime Minister from December 1991 until March 1996. During his term, he challenged some commonly held views regarding Australian identity and history. This included
acknowledging past wrongs inflicted on Indigenous Australians and advocating for a republic. He also questioned aspects of the Anzac legend.
In his role as Prime Minister, Keating spoke at several commemorative events, including on Anzac Day in 1992. While he acknowledged the bravery, skill and sacrifice of the Australian troops during the First World War, he warned that legends 'should not constrain our growth, or restrict us when we have to change.'
His most well-known commemorative address was on Remembrance Day 1993, when an unknown soldier was interred at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. In his eulogy, Keating said of the unknown soldier, 'He is all of them. And he is one of us.' These words were later inscribed beneath the tomb, and unveiled when Keating spoke at the Remembrance Day Ceremony in 2013.
Keating has continued to speak publicly about the Anzac legend since his retirement from politics. Read Keating's 2013 Remembrance Day address here:
The truth is that Gallipoli was shocking for us. Dragged into service by the imperial government in an ill conceived and poorly executed campaign, we were cut to ribbons and dispatched.
And none of it in the defence of Australia. Without seeking to simplify the then bonds of empire and the implicit sense of obligation, or to diminish the bravery of our own men, we still go on as though the nation was born again or even was redeemed there. An utter and complete nonsense.
For these reasons I have never been to Gallipoli and I never will.
Paul Keating, Extract from speech at launch of Graham Freudenberg's 'Churchill and Australia', Sydney, 30 October 2008
All this leads to an unwelcome conclusion about Gallipoli and the Dardanelles. Despite the bravery of the Allied troops who fought there, the campaign was fought in vain. It did not shorten the war by a single day, nor in reality did it ever offer that prospect. As Churchill said (and then promptly forgot), 'Germany is the foe & it is bad war to seek cheaper victories'. Gallipoli was certainly bad war. As it happened, it did not even offer a cheaper victory or in the end any kind of victory but even if it had, the downfall of Turkey was of no relevance to the deadly contest being played out on the Western Front.
Robin Prior, Gallipoli: the end of the myth, Sydney, 2009, page 252
He may have been one of those who believed the Great War would be an adventure too grand to miss. He may have felt that he would never live down the shame of not going. But the chances are that he went for no other reason than that he believed it was his duty – the duty he owed his country and his King.
Because the Great War was a mad, brutal, awful struggle distinguished more often than not by military and political incompetence; because the waste of human life was so terrible that some said victory was scarcely discernible from defeat; and because the war which was supposed to end all wars in fact sowed the seeds of a second, even more terrible, war – we might think that this Unknown Soldier died in vain.
But, in honouring our war dead as we always have, we declare that this is not true.
Prime Minister Paul Keating, extract from speech at the funeral service of the Unknown Soldier, 11 November 1993 keating.org.au/shop/item/funeral-service-for-the-unknown-australian-soldier---11-november-1993
For Australia, the First World War remains the costliest conflict in terms of deaths and casualties. From a population of fewer than five million, 416,809 men enlisted, of whom more than 60,000 were killed and 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner.
Australian War Memorial website
Joan Beaumont (affirmative case)
'The legend is … about values and ways of imagining the national identity.'
Joan Beaumont is a historian and academic at the Australian National University. Much of her work focuses on Australia's wartime experiences, including how the nation remembers war and the Anzac legend. Her publications include the award-winning Broken Nation: Australians and the Great War, which was published in 2013. It explores the experiences of Australians who served overseas and how those on the home front dealt with the loss and hardship inflicted by the First World War.
Beaumont is a frequent media contributor to discussions regarding the Anzac legend, which she regards as a 'signifier of national identity'. She has suggested that the characteristics and values highlighted by the legend are not always reflective of how the Anzacs saw themselves or of Australian society today.
The legend is also, and primarily, about values and ways of imagining the national identity. These values ... are currently courage, endurance, sacrifice and mateship.
Intriguingly, these do not mirror exactly the values that the original Anzacs embraced. They were often staunch British imperialists and prided themselves on being effective killers – something we tend to forget today when soldiers are often depicted as victims of catastrophe and trauma. But these values are arguably those which Australian society needs to affirm in the 21st century when, for all our materialism and rampant individualism, we still need at least some individuals to volunteer to subordinate their personal interests to the collective good. Anzac, in this sense, can validate not only the men and women of the Australian Defence Force who are the direct heirs of the legend of Gallipoli, but also the service of police officers, civil defence forces and fire fighters.
Joan Beaumont, 'Is the Anzac legend still the core of Australia's national identity?', Sydney Morning Herald, 21 April 2015
… within a space of fifteen feet, I can count fourteen of our boys stone dead … Men and boys who yesterday were full of joy and life, now lying there, cold – cold – dead – their eyes glassy, their face sallow and covered with dust – soulless – gone – somebody's son, somebody's boy – now merely a thing … God, what a sight. The major is standing next to me and he says 'Well we have won'. Great God – won … then may I never witness defeat.
Cyril Lawrence, Lone Pine, 7 August 1915
Joan Beaumont, Broken nation: Australians in the Great War, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2013, page 131
... for much of the twentieth century the history of war developed in the shadow of C.E.W. Bean, war correspondent, spirit behind the Australian War Memorial, and self-appointed custodian of the ANZAC legend. This is hardly an original comment but it needs repeating that Bean's official history acquired such stature that to this day no one has tried to replace it with a comprehensive history of the AIF during the First World War …
Joan Beaumont, 'ANZAC Day to VP Day: arguments and interpretations', Journal of the Australian War Memorial – Issue 40
Anzackery n. Aust. the promotion of the Anzac legend in ways that are perceived to be excessive or misguided.
Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary, sixth edition, Australian National Dictionary Centre, 2017
Note: the term Anzackery was coined in 1967 by historian Geoffrey Serle, and first added to the Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary in 2017.
Some submitters suggested that Simpson deserved a VC [Victoria Cross] because he represented what it means to be Australian, and there was strong community support for such recognition. While this might be a popular proposition, the VC can only be awarded for valorous conduct in the presence of the enemy. The Tribunal found that Simpson's initiative and bravery were representative of all other stretcher-bearers of 3rd Field Ambulance and that bravery was appropriately recognised as such by the award of an MID.
Inquiry into unresolved recognition for past acts of naval and military gallantry and valour (Valour Inquiry), Defence Honours and Awards Appeal Tribunal, 2013, page 184
Source Analysis Worksheet
|Source||What is the source who created it?||What information does the source provide?||What argument does this provide your character?||What questions are you left asking?|
|Anzac||Originally used to describe the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) that first formed in 1915, ‘Anzac‘ was soon used to describe the men themselves.|
|Dardanelles||A narrow strait of water in Turkey which lies along the Gallipoli peninsula. During the First World War the Gallipoli campaign was also referred to as the Dardanelles campaign.|
|Gallipoli||A peninsula located in Turkey where Australians fought in 1915.|
|Western Front||The central area of operations in Western Europe during the First World War.|
|Tommies||A slang word used at the time to describe English people.|
Great Debates: The Anzac Legend is designed for teachers and students of the Year 9 Australian Curriculum: Humanities and Social Sciences. It enables them to investigate differing attitudes Australians have toward the Anzac legend, and how these have changed over a century.
While an event may be significant in our nation's history, it will not always be of interest to young students. This resource is intended to engage students with, as well as educate them about, Australia's social, political and wartime history.
Great Debates: The Anzac Legend adopts a debate format using role-play of key characters to explore the statement 'That the Anzac legend is an idealised version of the truth'.
The activity employs an inquiry-based learning approach. Students are not given synthesised information but rather they are provided with primary and secondary sources to investigate from the perspective of an individual. The individuals selected for this debate come from different time periods, highlighting how the Anzac legend has changed since 1915. Students must examine the evidence provided to ascertain the views likely to have been held by the individual at the time that person contributed to our understanding of the Anzac legend.
The resource also makes use of formative assessment by way of peer-marking.
Using this resource
Although this education resource has been developed as a debate activity, it provides a range of historical sources and teachers can be flexible in the way they use the resource.
The amount of time that this activity takes will vary, but it is suitable for use over 4–7 lessons of 45-minutes duration. It can involve the entire class working in small groups, or just eight students, who present the debate for the rest of the class. You may like to use the activity in conjunction with Great Debates: Conscription, which can also be accessed from the Anzac Portal.
Further suggestions for using this resource in the classroom can be found below in the 'Advice for teachers' section.
Links to the Australian Curriculum
This resource is aligned with the Year 9 Australian Curriculum: Humanities and Social Sciences (History) focus, 'The Making of the Modern World', specifically Depth Study 3: World War I (1914–1918), providing:
- The places where Australians fought and the nature of warfare during World War I, including the Gallipoli campaign (ACDSEH095)
- The impact of World War I, with a particular emphasis on Australia, including the changing role of women (ACDSEH096)
- The commemoration of World War I, including debates about the nature and significance of the Anzac legend (ACDSEH097)
Structure and components of this resource
This resource is available as both a PDF on the Anzac Portal at anzacportal.dva.gov.au.
Advice to teachers
While recognising that teachers may use the resource in a variety of ways, this section provides suggestions for conducting the investigation and debate.
This section provides teachers with historical context regarding the development and evolution of the Anzac legend. Teachers should share this information with students before commencing the activity.
Two rubrics are included in this resource. The first is designed for teachers to assess students' performance. The second is designed so that students can conduct a peer assessment.
This section provides some questions for discussion or further exploration at the conclusion of the debate.
There are eight roles to be played in the debate: four provide arguments in support of the statement, and four develop arguments to rebut the statement.
This section provides a historical context for the character to further students' understanding of the person and the opinions they are likely to hold or have held.
Each character has six sources for students to investigate. These include speeches, newspaper articles, letters, diaries, political cartoons, images, artefacts and artworks.
The students' investigations are scaffolded by the 'Source Analysis Worksheet'. The questions are designed to help students form conclusions related to the debate topic.
'That the Anzac legend is an idealised version of the truth'
On 25 April 1915, soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landed under fire on the shores of Gallipoli. It was the first time the young Australian nation had sent a force into battle and those on the home front were soon reading about the 'worthy sons of the Empire' who had displayed bravery, courage, skill and camaraderie. The Anzac legend was born.
The Anzacs stayed on the Gallipoli peninsula for eight months of desperate fighting with few strategic gains. Yet, by the time they withdrew, their reputation had been cemented. Australia saw Anzacs as innovative, laconic, fearless, loyal and not afraid to question authority.
These notions regarding the Gallipoli campaign have been reinforced each Anzac Day since 1915 and are now deeply embedded in the Australian psyche. The Anzacs at Gallipoli helped to shape the Australian story, and their characteristics are often used to define what it means to be Australian. Thousands of Australians now undertake pilgrimages to Gallipoli each year.
In the years since 1915, however, some Australians have also challenged aspects of the Anzac legend. Some common arguments question the strategic relevance of the entire campaign, the competence of the British command, the lack of appropriate resources and the needless loss of life. Others have asked why Australians are so proud of a campaign which was in fact a military failure and why the Gallipoli campaign receives so much more recognition than the Anzacs on the Western Front, where many more were killed. The reliability of aspects of the legend, including the role of Simpson and his donkeys, have also been challenged.
As time has passed, so too has the meaning of 'Anzac'. It is now used to refer not only to those who served during the First World War, but to all the men and women who have served Australia since that time. While the relevance of the Anzac legend in today's multicultural society is at times debated, there is little doubt that it will continue to have significance for generations to come.
Advice to Teachers
- Teachers may wish to familiarise themselves with the background information provided in the teacher's guide.
- In introducing this activity, explain to your students that the characters they will be role-playing are drawn from different time periods. The arguments presented by each character should reflect the era in which the person helped shape our understanding of Anzac.
- Decide whether students will work individually, or in large or small groups.
- Organise groups/students participating in the debate into two teams: one team will support the statement (affirmative) and the second team will rebut the statement (negative).
- Distribute a character folder to each group/student. Provide students with time to analyse their sources and ask them to fill out the 'Source Analysis Worksheet' to assist in their investigation. The worksheet is located at the front of each character folder.
- Discuss with students what they have learned from the sources in relation to perspectives on the Anzac legend and allow them to conduct further research.
- Teachers may choose to discuss the procedures of a debate and the qualities of a good argument. Students can also be given the assessment rubric to see how they will be assessed. See Helpsheet: Effective debating (used with permission of the Teaching and Learning Unit, University of Melbourne) for more information on running debates.
- Give groups/students time to work in their team and formulate a general idea of the arguments each character will deliver.
- Give groups/students time to write the arguments for their character. Students should have an opportunity to discuss their completed arguments with their fellow team members and to make adjustments.
- Conduct the debate. Students who are watching may use the rubrics to help assess their peers.
- Discuss the questions in the 'Debrief' section.
Following the debate, discuss the following questions:
- Do you think the Anzac legend accurately reflects the Australian involvement in the Gallipoli campaign?
- What is the role of legends in defining a nation's identity?
- Do you believe the values and characteristics depicted in the Anzac legend are inclusive of all members of Australia's community today?
- Is the Anzac legend relevant to your generation of Australians?
|Quality of Argument||
Proposes an argument that addresses the inquiry and all of the elements of a successful argument
Proposes an argument that addresses the inquiry and most of the criteria
Proposes an argument that addresses the inquiry and is supported by an example
Proposes an argument but does not address the overarching inquiry and/or lacks logical structure, supporting example, or clarity
Does not propose an argument
Quality of Research
Goes beyond the provided sources and integrates own research in supporting their arguments
Makes use of multiple sources, including facts, events and/or perspectives to support arguments
Makes use of multiple sources
Makes use of only one source
Does not use source material or research information
Quality of Teamwork
Arguments all connected under the 'Team Line'; arguments complement each other
Arguments all connected under the 'Team Line
Arguments are connected but the team lacks coherency overall
One or more arguments are not connected to the others
No collaboration evident; arguments are completely disconnected
Quality of Presentation
Meets all the elements of quality presentation
Meets most elements of quality presentation
Meets multiple elements of quality presentation
Only meets one element of quality presentation
No evidence of making an effort in presentation
|Team #||Criteria/Demonstrated||Student 1
|Quality of Argument||
Quality of Research
Quality of Teamwork
Quality of Presentation
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