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The Forum Down Under: Hallowed ground in Melbourne

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Dave Lee | 14:40 UK time, Thursday, 8 October 2009

The team from The Forum have flown Down Under to record three special shows. This Sunday, you can hear the first show, recorded in the Sydney Opera House. Read executive producer Emily Kasriel's post about the Sydney show here. The show's presenter, Bridget Kendall, is keeping a diary of the trip for World Agenda, which you can read here. Next stop on their trip was Melbourne to record a show that will be broadcast in January. Emily wrote us this post:

We kicked off our first day in Melbourne by going to check out the venue of Wednesday's recording at the Melbourne arts centre, the Fairfax theatre is a great space, with circular plush seats surrounding a stage.

The technical team were putting up a living room style set - Persian style carpet, book cases and relaxed armchairs - ready to create a convivial atmosphere for a number of discussions, including The Forum. There is capacity there for 370 curious, and I am hoping enthusiastic and opinionated, Australians.


Some interesting shapes in Melbourne's Royal Botanic Garden

The debate over the Anzac soldiers and the legend created around them will be a discussion which will kick off our recording at the Melbourne Arts Festival. I've found out that it is a subject which inspires much passion amongst Australians, so I thought it would be wise to go and see for myself the towering Anzac monument just south of the arts festival, just next to the botanic gardens. The Anzac are the white Australian, and New Zealand soldiers who fought for empire in the First World War. 22 hectares of grounds include many trees dedicated to individual battalions as well as an eternal flame.

The scale of the monument is quite extraordinary. As we were nearing it, a loudspeaker announcement came on, giving us 5 minutes to climb the steps and take part in a memorial ceremony.

"Let all men know that this is hallowed ground" began a veteran who was leading it, before a recorded bugle call was sounded. These ceremonies take place on the hour, and I was told that most days 1000-1500 people take part.

Many schools make official trips here, and I took the opportunity to talk to some 13 and 14-year-old neatly uniformed boys from Xavier the elite Melbourne Jesuit School. I was taken aback by the strength of feeling that the boys shared with me. "Those soldiers gave their lives so we can live in peace, we can be freedom."

"We are all grateful."

It was not really the way that they honoured the soldiers that surprised me, even if their depth of passion did. It was more the fact that they wholeheartedly bought into Australia drawing upon the Anzac and its military connotations as the key national heroes of their country that made me think.

They told me that on Anzac day they often visit the shrine, bake Anzac biscuits, or do community service. Their teachers explained how much emphasis the school played on cultivating these ideas in their boys, and none that I spoke with expressed any scepticism or challenged the myth. I think that our feminist historian, who is going to do just that in our programme, might get quite a reception...

The Forum is first aired at 8:05am GMT (9:05 BST) on Sunday mornings, and repeated at various times after that. You can listen again here.

Over To You is your chance to have your say about the BBC World Service and its programmes. It airs at 10:40 and 23:40 every Saturday, and at 02:40 on Sunday (GMT).


  • Comment number 1.

    "The Anzac are the white Australian, and New Zealand soldiers who fought for empire in the First World War."
    If I read that statement I get the impression that they where all white.
    New Zealand sent a lot of Maori Soldiers to the war and they served as ANZACS with the Aussies.
    So bringing the white comment in to this subject only goes to show a prejudice by the writer.
    BTW.. there were aboriginal soldiers in WW1 as well so the WHITE word is totally WRONG.
    I just learned that by google of course.


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