Why am I the history teacher who doesn’t attend an ANZAC Day service?

History is full of many perspectives.

I acknowledge, thank and honour the individuals who lost, risked and fought for their lives for Australia, the place where I was born and live.

I acknowledge that the European war was not Australia’s war and that we supported our mother country in due faith.

But I also acknowledge that the Australian political parties competed for the mother country’s attention in petty inspiring patriotism to go to war.

I also acknowledge the fatal mistake, the navigational error that the British General made in falling our men upon the rocky cliffs of Gallipoli.

I acknowledge the historians who used words to create pictures about the war for people back home in Australia before television and the internet could tell the truth.

Those that I acknowledge in taking themselves to war, include the estimated 800-1000 Aboriginal men who despite being forbidden from serving due to the colour of their skin, were overlooked in enrolling to go to war as volunteers deteriorated from around 1916 (this is estimated because Aboriginal people were forbidden from enrolling so there is no official report).

I also acknowledge that our Aboriginal people belong to this land.

I acknowledge with regret the 800-1000 or so Aboriginal people who willingly, against the grain, fought for their country, with little or no public honour to their names, who did not have the right to vote until 1962, and who were not considered citizens of Australia until 1967.

I acknowledge those Australians spending their morning watching the march and men in sloped hats, the dangling of badges and flicker of ribbons and the musk notes from the bugle. For the pride they feel, is so strong, because it is almost the one thing that Australia can take pride in. Our ANZACS, our identity, our legend shared with our neighbouring country, New Zealand.

I acknowledge the history of the stolen generation of Aboriginal people and their cracked genealogy lines that occurred in a way as though an earthquake came and tore ridges in the ground that was their foundation. I understand that this is a part of history that Australians can not take pride in.

So once again I acknowledge the clanking medals and feet in shined shoes and heaving chests in ironed out suit jackets and I say, I will not join you today, I will not enlist today; I do acknowledge and thank those lives who were lost, risked and fought but I do not stand up today like I did yesterday.

I acknowledge that Australians don’t have much of a past to look to for terms of patriotism and nationalism, and that the history that we should be celebrating lies dormant in museums in token exhibitions for internationals to see. But we do not don a badge in a march for our Aboriginal past. How can we, when we have failed it?

I acknowledge that Australia has become home to many people from many different cultures, who have had their past cut off from them, and who too, celebrate the historical wins and victories, and remember losses and hardships passed down orally from generation to generation, with the eldest responsible for knowing all, and taking the first step in passing their culture’s history on.

I acknowledge that ANZAC is a day off from work for some, a chance to get drunk and gamble for others, a chance to wallow in melancholy for all the sadness in an individual’s lives for many.

But I ask you to acknowledge that grieving can end.

How do I know?

Our Aboriginal people told me.

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