2015 Don Grant Memorial Lecture: Bringing the war home: Repatriation records and the family historian
Professor Bruce Scates is the Chair of History and Australian Studies and Director of the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University. From 2011 to 2013, he chaired the Military and Cultural History Panel advising the Anzac Centenary Board in Canberra. Bruce is the author of many books, including the novel On dangerous ground: A Gallipoli story, which mixes fact and fiction to recapture lost lives.
In his powerful and thought-provoking talk, ‘Bringing the war home: Repatriation records and the family historian’, Professor Scates contrasts the stark realities of World War I with the myths of officially endorsed memorials.
He expands on several themes, including the One Hundred Stories project, which has brought the individual stories of servicemen and their families to life through the power of words and images. Confronting and heartbreaking, these real-life stories were deemed unpalatable for the general public by the Anzac centenary board. He also highlights the achievements of Project Albany, which is digitising Australia’s unique repatriation records, providing a rich source of information for family historians.
Professor Scates’ warm and engaging style is in stark contrast to the stories he shares of terrible loss endured both during and after WWI. At the core of his talk is the question: how should we remember our war dead? Should their stories be sanitised for the general public or should the physical and psychological torment of a war-wrecked generation be disclosed? And what of the servicemen who survived the war but not the peace, and who are not remembered on our honour rolls?
Watch the video of Professor Bruce Scates’s Don Grant Memorial Lecture at Family History Feast 2015, courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.