Maurie Scott


In common with many cultures, Australia has accorded warlike exploits privileged status among its national mythologies: military events in its history - as regrettable as the genocidal conflicts with its indigenous peoples - have a high and positive profile in the national consciousness. This is understandable in the light of the fact that the (relatively) young social democracy has been involved in five wars this century, for a total of over twenty years between 1900 and 1972: one indication of the significant part played by war in the experience of many Australians. However, the elevation of war to the mythic status it achieved entailed the interplay of more complex and subtle factors than such simple accounting suggests. The process begins with the institutionalisation of a natural if not entirely laudable pride in feats of arms (by ceremonial observance of the 'sacrifice' of the 'fallen', by the transformation of the 'facts' of military events into legend, etc.) and develops quickly to the point at which assertions of patriotism and national status are expressed frequently in terms of military prowess. Only international sporting achievements would seem to loom larger in their contribution to national self-image and self-esteem.1



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