Legends and Language

Writers ignore the nuances of legend and language at their peril

Host – Ted Egan

The Minefield of Military History

Craig Stockings

It’s hard to write Australian military history without an awareness of the Anzac Legend. Like it or not, the legend imposes many presumptions and suppositions. Craig Stockings, Official Historian of recent operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and East Timor, talks about the perils, pitfalls and challenges of writing Australian military history. What do the consequent controversies and debates mean for the latest Official History series?

Plenty of scope for argument with the audience here!

Larrikins in Khaki

Tim Bowden

There is much argument about many of the qualities of Australian soldiers, but there is no disputing their vivid and down to earth way of expressing themselves. Tim Bowden, Vietnam war correspondent, ABC personality and prolific author, has interviewed hundreds of Australian war veterans. Listen to their stories, in their words – stories from the men in khaki who told it like it was – ‘with scant regard for military pretensions, military niceties and bullshit’.

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Ted Egan AM

Ted Egan was 16 when he first came to Darwin in 1949, intending a short stopover en route to South America where he thought he would find adventure as a gaucho. He went no further – the Territory offered more than enough adventure! He quickly demonstrated an empathy with Aboriginal people. He spent the next 25 years as a public servant, crocodile hunter, Native Affairs Branch officer, and school teacher, acquiring a Bachelor of Arts degree along the way. He listened carefully to everyone he met, soaking up remarkable stories and astonishing speech patterns. By the late 1960s he was in demand as a singer and story teller. In 1969 he wrote the song Gurindji Blues, a powerful commentary on the Gurindji struggle for land rights. A few years later he began writing and singing full time, with national popular success. In 2003 he was appointed Administrator of the Northern Territory, the pinnacle of the many honours and awards that have justly come his way; however, he considers that being involved in 1952 with the establishment of St Mary’s Football Club in Darwin, to provide an opportunity for Tiwi players to participate, was the highpoint of his life. For the centenary of the Great War he created the multi-media kit – The Anzacs 100 Years on, in Story and Song. Recently, he shrugged off an aggressive cancer. Now, he is busily engaged planning his 90th birthday celebrations in 2022 – and he is still writing, still singing, still telling yarns, still delighting everyone he meets.

Professor Craig Stockings

Craig Stockings is the Official Historian of Australian Operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and East Timor. He is a graduate of both the Australian Defence Force Academy, and the Royal Military College, Duntroon. As an Infantry Officer he served in a range of regimental appointments within the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. As a junior officer he served during the INTERFET deployment to East Timor in 1999-2000, followed by an appointment as the Aide-de-Camp to the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia. Craig holds a First Class Honours Degree in History, Masters qualifications in International Relations and Education, and a PhD in History. Prior to his appointment as Official Historian, Craig was a Professor of History at the University of New South Wales (Canberra). His areas of academic interest concern general and Australian military history and operational analysis.

Tim Bowden AM

Tim has had an amazingly productive life as a journalist, broadcaster and writer. In 1965 he worked in Singapore as a correspondent covering the ‘confrontation’ between Malaysia and Indonesia and the Indo-China war. He worked with the ABC in both television and radio – he became a national institution between 1986 and 1994 when he presented the Backchat program. He undertook major oral history projects, including Taim Bilong Masta (Australia’s colonial role in New Guinea), Prisoners of War: Australians Under Nippon, and Survival, about extraordinary survival experiences of some prisoners of war.

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