Australian High school students on commemorating the Gallipoli campaign: “It baffles me” and “It’s a bit weird.”
Keywords:History, Australia, World War I, collective memory, nationalism, historical consciousness
Australia’s involvement in World War I, currently in its centenary years of commemoration, continues to capture the public’s imagination in a way that arguably surpasses all other historical events in Australia’s history. This is particularly in terms of: popular culture representations such as advertising, film, and television; children’s literature; popular and academic history publications; and educational resources at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. So pervasive is the public’s awareness of Australia’s first major military campaign, Gallipoli, that by the time high school students in year 9 study the unit on Australia’s involvement in WWI, they are already familiar with the common tropes of narratives surrounding this event, however inaccurate they may be. This paper reports on research conducted in three NSW high schools that provided students with a collection of five sources and a series of questions to answer about the Gallipoli campaign as a historical and commemorative event. The research is interested in understanding how the Gallipoli campaign is perceived at the time of its 100 year anniversary and to see whether or how students engage with collective memory and official history in their own narratives of the nation.