One day of the year also important to non-Anglo immigrants

Tim Soutphommasane; 28/4/10

Watching Q & A’s special Anzac edition on ABC1 this week, I was struck by a question posed by a young woman of Asian background: does the Anzac tradition have any meaning for Australians of migrant heritage? Former Defence Force chief Peter Cosgrove, sitting at one end of the panel, responded that it wasn’t for anyone to prescribe to others how they should feel about Anzac. Another panellist, historian Henry Reynolds, responded that Australians were indeed divided about Anzac because the tradition was bound up in Britishness and hence could never include those of non-British backgrounds. As someone of Chinese and Lao extraction, born overseas, I confess that I, too, have had my doubts about the Anzac tradition. I recall more than 10 years ago sitting in a eucalyptus grove at Hurlstone Agricultural High School in Sydney’s southwest, listening to a fellow student deliver a speech about the Anzac spirit. She spoke passionately about our celebrated old boy John Edmondson, who was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for his actions at Tobruk in 1941. She spoke movingly about how “our forebears” fought to defend our country and the Australian way of life.