Articles

We demean our history when we turn the Australian War Memorial into Disneyland | Paul Daley

The Coalition’s $500m expansion plans deviate from the memorial’s mission, undermining what should be a space for quiet reflection

Brendon Kelson is a former senior career commonwealth public servant whose many jobs included directing the Australian War Memorial from 1990 to 1994.

He turned 84 last week. When I last saw him, he was fit and feisty, smiling, and his eyes sparkling with wit. But he has been crook of late, in hospital with pneumonia; Canberra’s winters become tougher the older you get.

Australia cast itself as the hero of East Timor. But it was US military might that got troops in | Paul Daley

Newly released diplomatic cables show the realpolitik behind the scenes as Indonesian militias prepared to torch Dili

Australia’s precise role in bringing independence to Timor-Leste two decades ago continues to simmer as unsettled business at the heart of modern Australian diplomatic and military history.

The true story of Australia is neither simple nor easy. How about some honest history? | Paul Daley

Too many politicians opt for an uncomplicated For-We-Are-Young-and-Free narrative, but we can be so much more

Even before the Senate recently voted for an inquiry with wide-ranging terms of reference into “nationhood, national identity and democracy”, the word was out among progressive historians who’ve long wanted a public airing of how history informs our democracy.

Our constitution is already racist, but the politics around the voice have been craven and nauseous | Paul Daley

The voice is a hostage – perhaps now already a victim – of Coalition internal politics

The Indigenous people of this land are used to white lies.

History, if you don’t re-interpret it, as many have, to render the colonial experience of this continent benignly, tells us that.

Related: A $500m expansion of the war memorial is a reckless waste of money | Paul Daley

What’s behind the AFL’s sudden insistence that the game has Indigenous beginnings? | Paul Daley

We should allow for the possibility of a shared history but the timing of this changed position looks opportunistic

Debate over whether Australian football has its beginnings in Indigenous Marn Grook, a ball game with an ancient continental past, is intensifying after the AFL’s sudden insistence that the Aboriginal pastime has apparently influenced the earliest official Aussie Rules code.

Regardless of whether the Wentworth statue stands or falls, it's a conversation worth having | Paul Daley

Here’s the reality check: Wentworth was indeed a racist who saw the demise of Indigenous people as inevitable and desirous

Predictable outrage from the usual dreary quarters has greeted the call by supposedly “radical” University of Sydney students to tear down a statue of their institution’s founder, William Wentworth, because of his racist approach to Indigenous people.

Tony Birch on The White Girl: ‘No Aboriginal person I know is intact’

Birch’s new novel is an allegory of good, evil and the legacy of Australia’s colonial past – with strong black women at its core

Other writers may cringe to learn that Tony Birch wrote the first draft of his new novel, The White Girl, in about eight weeks.

Looking into the abyss: Don Watson on facing his mortality

One of Australia’s great writers talks to Paul Daley about death, faith, Australian character and surviving a leukaemia diagnosis

Don Watson decided to go for a few medical tests after attending the funeral of his old friend Michael Gordon, the loved and respected journalist who died far too young early last year.

Standing at my parents’ graves, I pondered how I'd feel if I couldn't visit them | Paul Daley

And I wondered why there has been no national outrage about the tens of thousands of stolen Indigenous remains

Occasionally you’ve just got to go with instinct, a force we may not understand but one in which we sometimes invest ahead of the tossed coin to resolve a hard decision or determine where to go at the forked path.

Australia’s leaders, its media and some historians persist in talking up the big Anzac game | Paul Daley

Anzac has become a national faith, a secular religion. And fact, of course, runs a distant second to belief when it comes to faith

Our four-year, half-a-billion-plus dollar festival of Anzac commemoration officially ended last November.

But it may still be too early to hope that our national remembrance might now extend beyond inflated myths about Australia’s first world war role in Europe and the Ottomans.

Pages