Intelligence Squared Debate: Anzac Day is More Puff Than Substance

Intelligence Squared Debate: Anzac Day is More Puff Than Substance

The plucky bravery of the Anzacs is one of our great national stories – it plays into our idea of who we are. But why is one of the touchstones of our identity based on a historic defeat?

Some are sick of the mantras of Anzac and mateship, while others believe worship of soldiers is inappropriate in an era when we’re still at war in Afghanistan. Are we becoming warmongers – or recognising the sacrifice of our defence personnel?

Our diverse panel – including historians, war reporters and former Army personnel – argue some of the thorny issues.

For the proposition:

  • Professor Marilyn Lake – historian and author of What’s Wrong with Anzac
  • Graham Wilson – formerly of the Australian Army and Department of Defence, now a historian and writer
  • Jeff Sparrow – writer and editor of Overland

Against the proposition:

  • Dr Brendan Nelson – director of the Australian War Memorial and former ambassador and politician
  • John Martinkus – conflict zone journalist and cinematographer
  • Brigadier Nicholas Jans – Australian Army veteran, Army Reservist and Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Defence Leadership & Ethics at ADFA


Portrait of Nick Jans

Nick Jans

Royal Military College graduate Nick Jans, PhD, served in the Australian Regular Army for 25 years. He retains his association with the Army as an Army Reservist with the rank of Brigadier, and as a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Defence Leadership & Ethics, Australian Defence College.

Portrait of Marilyn Lake

Marilyn Lake

Marilyn Lake is a leading Australian historian with a national and international profile. She has been researching the impact of war on Australian society for 30 years, the subject of both her MA and PhD thesis.

Portrait of John Martinkus

John Martinkus

John Martinkus has covered conflicts since 1995 in East Timor, Iraq, Afghanistan, Aceh, Sri Lanka and Burma for print and from 2004to 2008 forSBS Dateline. He has published three non fiction accounts of the conflicts in East Timor, Aceh and Iraq and a Quarterly Essay on West Papua.

Portrait of Brendan Nelson

Brendan Nelson

Dr Brendan Nelson became director of the Australian War Memorial in December 2012. Prior to this, he was the Australian ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg, the European Union and NATO (2009–12). Apart from overseeing a major transformation in Australia’s relationships with the European Union and NATO, Dr Nelson forged deep links with the communities of Flanders, where almost 13,000 Australians lost their lives during World War I.

Portrait of Jeff Sparrow

Jeff Sparrow

Jeff Sparrow is a writer, editor and broadcaster. His most recent book is No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson. He writes a fortnightly column for the Guardian, is part of the Breakfasters team on 3RRR each week day morning and is also an Honorary Fellow at Victoria University. 

Portrait of Graham Wilson

Graham Wilson

Graham Wilson served 26 years in the Australian Army, followed by 14 years in the Department of Defence. Retired since 2011, he is now a full time historian, researcher and writer.

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