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Students believe forging links with Australia has benefits

Many Canterbury students surveyed believe forging links with Australia has benefits

April 24, 2014

University of Canterbury history and anthropology second year students mostly believe forging links with Australia has benefits but sharing the same currency was not an option.

The students were asked a raft of questions relating to Anzac Day and most students say they feel closer to Australia than other countries.

Associate Professor Lyndon Fraser says remembrance and sacrifice are the two words that figure prominently in relation to Anzac Day and students generally felt it was a day to remember all New Zealanders who have served overseas, not just those at Gallipoli 100 years ago next year.

``There was one critical note regarding Gallipoli which related to the notion that nations and men are made in war, a view in vogue at the time.

``The students generally were not keen to mark Anzac Day with Australian-New Zealand sporting events because of the solemnity of the occasion. But one student suggested an alternative would be to have a joint New Zealand and Australian global project for peace and reconciliation.

``Students respected the Dawn Service because of the degree of reverence or respect. There was a real appreciation for how Australians regard the name Anzac and I think they are absolutely right.’’

One student thought while the two countries are superficially similar there are real differences in size, population, geography, climate, economy, proximity to Indonesia and ethnic mix.

As New Zealand’s nearest neighbour, Australia is easily accessible and many New Zealanders have family there or know someone there and it has the sense of sameness, just bigger, busier and warmer.

Another student pointed out that Kiwis and Australians commonly identify with each other when they meet overseas because `we may as well be from the same place’.

Virtually all the students knew Anzac Day marked New Zealand's involvement and sacrifice in the First World War, especially at Gallipoli, but also to remember the fallen soldiers and returned service men and women from all overseas conflicts.

Dr Rosemary Baird says it is interesting that the students didn't see sport as an appropriate marker of Anzac Day.

``I suspect there's now a divide between current Anzac defence relations and the general public's view of what Anzac means. Friendly rivalry is an essential element to the current Anzac relationship - the New Zealand and Australian Defence Forces enjoyed heated sporting contests during and immediately after World War I. This relationship is still present when Kiwi and Australian defence forces work together in peacekeeping missions.

``Students are responding to a new public awareness of the ongoing trauma and downsides of war, seen in the increasing creation of World War I stories which provide counter narratives to the traditional themes of patriotism, heroism and sacrifice. Recent oral history books include material on the ripple-on effect of combat experience in the decades after World War 1 such as alcoholism, mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder and ongoing physical maladies.

``It will be fascinating to see how students and the public in general engage with the out-flowing of new books, exhibitions, TV shows, and news articles arising from the 100th anniversary commemorations,’’ Dr Baird says.


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