Defending Country

About Defending Country

‘Defending Country’ applies to all who have fought for Australia or parts of it. It applies just as much to First Australians (Arrernte, Noongar, Wiradjuri, and others), defending their Country on Country (and dying on Country), as it does to uniformed Australians fighting our overseas wars.

Recognising and implementing the Defending Country theme is the key to the Australian War Memorial’s future as an honest Australian cultural institution, one that owns and acknowledges all our history of war and its effects.

Defending Country is the theme that binds together:

  • First Nations warriors who resisted settler-invader, police and military power;
  • First Nations women, children and old folk who died with their men or suffered massacre, rape and poison;
  • men and women in the country’s uniform (including Indigenous service people) sent overseas to fight for King and Empire, for Australia, or ‘to defend our values’.

All these people believed their Country was threatened and needed defending.

As the War Memorial is Australia’s premier commemorative institution, grounding it in the Defending Country theme should set the tone for institutions and communities across our country. It should also have implications for national days of commemoration, like Anzac Day and Remembrance Day.

As a veteran I can’t see how my service was somehow more deserving of being commemorated than that of First Australians warriors who fought bravely against superior forces. (Noel Turnbull, 104 Field Battery, Vietnam, 1968-69)