October 28, 2016 marked 100 years since the first conscription referendum was held in Australia. The anniversary was largely unnoticed by mainstream media and it is no surprise. It doesn’t tell a story of great unity, but rather a moment of great conflict during a war where the ANZAC myth had just been forged.
To mark the occasion and to examine what the conscription conflict means to us today (and perhaps more importantly, should mean), I interviewed Associate Professor Sean Scalmer, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at The University of Melbourne.
My first foray into Australian history came from attending lectures by Sean Scalmer – his strength as an academic and lecturer is that he illuminates Australian history with clarity, life, perceptiveness and nuance.
To listen to the my chat with Sean Scalmer, click here (Triple R On Demand). It will play from the beginning of the interview.
Scalmer co-wrote the book, The Conscription Conflict and the Great War (October 2016), with fellow historians Robin Archer, Joy Damousi, and Murray Goot.
It was launched in Melbourne at Trades Hall by Federal Leader Bill Shorten on October 27, 1916.
It’s clear that the conscription campaigns of 1916 and 1917 are still very important to Australian Labor Party’s identity and to labour history. There is much contention around this and how it is remembered by society and by the labour movement currently. More from me on that at a later date.
Later in the show, I spoke to Dr. Lucina Ward (listen to the interview here) from the National Gallery of Australia who is Senior Curator of the Versailles: Treasures from the Palace exhibition (opens December 9, 2016).