Free Anzac Day forum on Australia's foray into World War One

15 April 2014

As the world marks the centenary of the start of World War One in 2014, a free public forum at the University of Sydney on Anzac Day examines its often overlooked Pacific theatre; where Australia's involvement in the war began.

The popular narrative of Australia's role in the war focuses on the treachery of the western front and the Battle of Gallipoli. Less known is the nation's foray into the war, when 1500 infantry and navy personnel were sent to German New Guinea in August 1914 to secure its wireless stations. The Sydney Ideas forum Remembering World War One in the Pacific brings together a panel of historical experts seeking to redress this gap in our historical understanding.

The University of Sydney's Dr Christine Winter is one of four panellists participating in the discussion. Dr Winter will outline the swiftness with which the Australians secured German surrender in New Guinea and the misguided sense of optimism this gave the nation. She does this by highlighting how mementos, war trophies and curios brought home from New Guinea were displayed in newspaper articles, shop windows and museums to celebrate victory in the Pacific.

"As the war progressed, of course, the displays took on a more solemn note," she says. "During 1917 and 1918 death became more and more part of the displays and reporting. Shop window displays shifted from being exotic spectacles to community memorials. Photos of local men who died were included amongst the shrapnel, bullets and war trophies of the western front.

"These stood in stark contrast to the exotica of German cutlery and painted human skulls and the sense of victory which came home in the early years of the war."

Professor Sean Brawley from Macquarie University and the University of the South Pacific's Dr Max Quanchi will also offer their unique perspectives on how the Pacific featured during the 1914-1918 global conflict. Professor Brawley offers a broader European view on the Pacific aspects of the war while Dr Quanchi looks at the differing practices of commemoration of war service in the Pacific.
Remembering World War One in the Pacific is the closing event of the Australian Association for Pacific Studies Conference Oceanscapes conference, hosted by the University's Macleay Museum. It promises attendees a unique perspective of an often overshadowed chapter of World War One.

Event details:
What: Remembering World War One in the Pacific
Where: Law School Foyer, Level 2, Sydney Law School, Eastern Avenue, The University of Sydney
When: Friday, 25 April, 5-6.30pm
Cost: Free, but registration is essential
Phone: 02 9036 5253

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