AWM Correspondence

INITIAL LETTER
From: Graeme Dunstan [mailto:graemed01@gmail.com]
Sent: Saturday, 23 October 2010 4:15 PM
To: Steve Gower
Subject: Anzac Peacemakers Lantern Vigil
ATTENTION:
Major General Steve Gower AO
Director
Australian War Memorial
dear Sir,
I write to you to give notice of my intention to organise for next Anzac Day eve, a lantern-lit vigil which will assemble at dusk and go through the night till the Dawn Service. We will use the occasion to recall the voices of service people who returned from war and said that war was not the answer.
It is my intention to build this event over the next few years, starting next Anzac Day eve in Canberra, and aim to have 10,000 lanterns arrayed across the nation on the eve of the centenary of the Galllipoli landing in 2015.
Inspired to do this by my reading of What’s Wrong with Anzac – the Militarisation of Australian History by Marilyn Lake, Henry Reynolds, et al and my meditations at the Australian Quaker Centre, Bungendore last Anzac Day weekend, i expect the event will have a lot of support from the many people concerned about the endless wars in which we now find ourselves engaged.  And in particular faith based peace activists and their families.
I understand that you are contributing to the planning for the national celebration of the Anzac centenary and I request that you pass on this notice of intent to the committee you are working with.
Please also point me to whoever i must talk to in order to integrate our Anzac Lantern Vigil into the overall Anzac Day celebrations in Canberra.
Yours respectfully,
Graeme Dunstan
Peacebus.com

INITIAL RESPONSE

On Thu, Oct 28, 2010 at 4:08 PM, Steve Gower <Steve.Gower@awm.gov.au> wrote:

Dear Mr Dunstan,

Thank you for your courtesy in letting me know your intentions for a lantern-lit vigil next ANZAC Day in Canberra.

Unfortunately I cannot grant permission to use the grounds of the Australian War Memorial in the manner you propose.  It would be inacceptable to the Council and the tens of thousands of Australians who come to participate in a ceremony that has long-standing tradition and resonance.

Could I suggest that your supporters, whose motives and wishes I have no difficulties with, gather in some alternate place where they can follow their beliefs with no possible conflict with those wishing to attend the ceremony here.  A location on the lake or perhaps Mt Ainslie or Black Mountain might be appropriate.  They could be stunning locations for your assembly.

I trust you are still enjoying Ballarat.

Yours sincerely,

Steve Gower.

ONCE MORE WITH FEELING

From: Graeme Dunstan [mailto:graemed01@gmail.com]

Sent: Thursday, 28 October 2010 5:48 PM

To: Steve Gower

Subject: Re: Anzac Peacemakers Lantern Vigil

Thanks for responding, Steve.

And thanks for your suggestion of possible sites for the event.

The War Memorial must, and will be, the focus of the Anzac Peacemaker Lantern event but not necessarily occupying it all night.

We could for example approach the Memorial in a lantern parade and go onto another place for the talky talky.

I respectfully suggest that what was once acceptable at Anzac Days past is now being challenged and that a new accommodation will need to be found for the changing mood of veterans and Australian public generally when the acceptability of endless war, such as we have now in Afghanistan, is turned on its head.

The problem with Anzac commemoration has been the success of its war fostering liturgy. Now the tide is turning.

Better we keep talking and planning for inclusion rather than conflict. What we aim to do can only grow and prosper with each and every attempt to exclude the peace movement from Anzac.

Your reference to Ballarat signals that you are aware of the success and the grace of the Eureka Dawn Lantern Walks which i organised there 1998-2005.

But i have never been resident in Ballarat. Grey nomad me, living in a van, moving from place to place organising events; currently it is a campaign of barrack gate Speak Outs against the Afghan War.

I will be back in Ballarat in November to organise something for the Eureka commemoration of 4 December. Might you be in town then? Might we meet?

Yours respectfully,

Graeme Dunstan

I SAID NO!

On Tue, Nov 9, 2010 at 5:36 PM, Steve Gower <Steve.Gower@awm.gov.au> wrote:

Dear Graeme,

Thank you for sending me some your further thoughts on your Lantern proposal.

It seems to me you have some misunderstandings about ANZAC Day, as commemorated at the Memorial.  It is, indeed, about peace, a peace brought about by service and sacrifice.  It certainly is not, despite your perceived “problem”, about a “war-fostering liturgy”.  It is, I must say, surprising that you would advance that and the other views.

I accept there are some who might claim that, and good luck to them.  We are a democracy, and all sorts of views can be held.  However, that tolerance does not extend to having the ANZAC Day ceremonies changed to satisfy particular people, no matter the sincerity of their views.  Accordingly, my position is unchanged to that previously advised, and I believe there is no useful purpose in discussing your idea any further with me.  I did give you some alternative suggestions, none of which involve an intrusion into AWM activities, and all of which could give you the impact that you seek.

The matter of using ANZAC Parade and other venues is one for the various controlling authorities.

Yours sincerely,

Steve Gower.

WE’RE NOT ASKING PERMISSION

dear Steve,

Thank you for your kind regard.

Let me highly recommend, both as a matter of personal enlightenment and professional responsibility, that you acquire and devour Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds’ book, “What’s Wrong with Anzac? The Militarisation of Australian History”.

If the existing Anzac liturgy is, as you say, about promoting peace, then how is it, that at this high watermark in the history of the commemoration of Anzac Day, that we find ourselves at endless war?

The Lake/Reynolds critique is as well measured as it is penetrating and it is the writing on the wall for the organisers of Anzac commemorations. No amount of denial is going to remove it.

Please understand that my peacemaking activist friends are not going to wait for the RSL to agree to changes to the existing liturgy; rather we are determined to take direct action to change it by introducing another.

To wit, a lantern lit vigil on Anzac Day eve which recalls the voices of service people who returned from war and spoke for peace; who said that the blood and glory talk and the rendering sacred of senseless and unquestioning sacrifice, is nonsense and propaganda, a collective madness from which comes mass death and mighty and long enduring suffering.

Please also understand that we are not asking permission to do this. The Anzac eve Peacemaker Lantern Vigil will certainly happen in Canberra next year and it will grow and become national by Anzac Day 2015.

A mass lantern parade up Anzac Avenue to the War Memorial will be part of it.

So let’s start talking about how rather than whether.  Let’s start negotiating as gentlemen and peacemakers for a win-win outcome.

I am sure that’s what the AFP will be wanting too. Would you want to be on a police line preventing ex-service people and their families, old people and children, bearers of light all, from approaching the War Memorial on Anzac Day eve? You are made of better stuff than that, Steve.

I am presently in Victoria (greetings from Ballarat!) and do not expect to be back in Canberra until late March when i will return to set up for lantern making. That will, I expect, give us plenty of time to negotiate the management details of the event.

Negotiating face to face is much to be preferred over email. The sooner we meet, the better.

May you be well and happy minded.

FUCK OFF AND DIE

From: Steve Gower <Steve.Gower@awm.gov.au>

Date: Thu, Nov 11, 2010 at 10:23 AM

Subject: RE: Anzac Peacemakers Lantern Vigil

To: Graeme Dunstan <graemed01@gmail.com>

Dear Graeme,

I feel I have been too subtle in our communications.

Let me tell you there will be no lantern, or whatever, element in any activity planned and hosted by the Australian War Memorial before, on or after ANZAC Day.

This special place is controlled by a government-appointed Council and I can assure you confidently that it will not approve your plans.

Accordingly, there is no point in meeting with me on this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Steve Gower.

PERHAPS THERE’S ANOTHER WAY

Not too subtle, Steve.

But maybe a little condescending.

But no offense taken for neither you nor your controlling Council fully understand the tide of public opinion now turning against the endless wars which the Anzac liturgy has so effectively fostered in this land and in these times.

A Peacemakers Lantern Parade will certainly take place next Anzac Day, with or without the approval of the government appointed controlling Council.

In my mind it has already begun. Step by step my peace activist friends and i are coming towards you and the Australian War Memorial, bearing light.

We intend no disrespect. Indeed our actions will be in accord with the official education function of the Memorial and in the tradition of Charles Bean the founder; we will be addressing the causes of war and their prevention.

I will write and give formal notice of our intent to the controlling Council.

And I will remain ever open to meeting and negotiating the event with you or whoever.

May you be well and happy.

Graeme Dunstan

1 comment

  1. Trinity Constantine says:

    ‘Lest we forget’ the horrors of war. Lest we forget who fought and died in the wars, for they believed they fought and died for their country, for their families, their communities and values.

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